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Social Justice

The Salvation Army believes that all people are made in the image of God and that each person has value.  In light of scripture and our heritage The Salvation Army commits itself to the upholding of social justice in all societies and between societies.

What is social justice?

Social justice is found when a society enables all its members to participate in and have access to the social, cultural, political and economic resources that define a normative way of life for that society.

Social justice is absent when groups of people within a society are excluded from or have very limited access to social, cultural, political and economic resources, compared to the majority of that society.

Social justice is related to, but is wider than, human rights. People may have their human rights respected and upheld, but still be excluded from participating in or accessing the resources of their society.

Social justice is about fairness:

  • in our dealings with other people.
  • in the way responsibilities are shared.
  • in the distribution of income, wealth and power in society.
  • in the social, economic and political structures we have created.
  • in the operation of those structures so that all members of society are able to be active and productive participants.*

What does the Bible say about social justice?

In the Bible:

People are seen as social beings

The Old Testament consistently places the individual in the context of the community. The New Testament tells us that we belong to a group, and our belonging is based on reciprocal relationships (Romans 12:4-5,10, NIV).

God is concerned about the structures of our life

The Old Testament talks about the detailed provisions Hebrew society made for mercy, justice and restoration in employment, courts, welfare, land, and business. It also talks about what happens when society fails to act justly (Leviticus 25, Deuteronomy 15, 19, and 24. Exodus 23:1-13, Amos 5:21 6:1, 9:7-10, Isaiah 1:21-26, 2:13-15, 30:8-19). Jesus reacted and acted against the oppressive and unjust systems of his day, and his disciples were challenged to re-examine their conventional understandings of how people should interact and relate. (John 4:1-30, Acts 10:1-48, Mark 2:23-28, 3:1-6, 11:15-19)

There is a consistent and deep compassion for the poor and the oppressed

This is found in both the prophets and in Jesus ministry. The prophets condemn those who allow wealth to grow at the expense of the poor, and systems and structures that trap people in poverty, slavery and debt (Amos 5:11-13). The New Testament consistently talks about our responsibility towards brothers and sisters in need (James 2:14-17). Jesus announced his ministry with the words of Isaiah 'He has chosen me to tell the good news to the poor, freedom to prisoners, sight to the blind and to let the oppressed go free' (Luke 4:18-20).

The intrinsic worth of every person is emphasised

Jesus ministry sought to bring those who were on the edge of life, the disreputable, the unclean people of his society, into the centre, and to proclaim God’s kingdom to and through them. Jesus valued all people. (Matthew 10:31, 11:28, Luke 7:34).

Christ is Lord of all things and all people.

Christ’s Lordship is not just of the church but of the whole world and all its activities. Christ makes a difference in every part of life. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, they learnt  'Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth.' God’s will is to be done here and now in the world.**

Salvationist response

We seek social justice because we worship a just God.  We affirm as people of faith we are called to seek a world of justice and equity in which the structures serve just ends and every person can lead a life of worth and dignity.

* From 'Making Choices—Social Justice for Our Times', Church Leaders Social Justice Initiative 1993.    

** From 'The Local Church in Social Action', The Joint Methodist Presbyterian Public Questions Committee 1981.

Approved by International Headquarters
October 2005