Social Justice and Young Evangelicals: Encouragement and Concern

Human trafficking. Racial prejudice. Health care. Immigration reform. Same-sex marriage. Environmentalism. Poverty. Abortion.

What comes to mind when you think of social justice?

In this new video, John Piper talks with Matt Chandler and David Platt about this trendy, vital, and often blurry topic. Piper has contended that Christians “should care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering,” Similar, Platt notes, is his own church’s informal motto: ”As we work for justice in the world, we speak clearly about the Judge of the world.”

Opportunities for social action will inevitably spring up as members are holistically discipled in the faith according to Matthew 28:19. “Church elders should so minister a robust gospel—a full-blooded, deep, sanctifying, transforming, humbling, radical-making gospel,” Piper says, “that these sorts of [social justice ventures] naturally happen.” As Platt adds, ”A robust commitment to the gospel and the Great Commission will inevitably lead to encounters with the impoverished, the orphaned, and so forth.”

“Be where you are” is the drum Chandler beats at The Village Church. “If you’re doing gospel ministry where the Lord has placed you,” he observes, “there will be plenty to do in terms of justice and gospel ministry.”

It’s also important to tie social justice to personal holiness, Platt point out. Fighting sex trafficking while looking at porn, for instance, is an ironic—and tragic—double standard.

Watch the full 10-minute video to see Piper, Platt, and Chandler discuss the relationship between social justice and the gospel, contemporary distortions of love, and more.

Social Justice from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.


    On current global scene in Syria and our persecuted brethren in the MiddleEast:

    How should we response actively, as salt and light of the world, to a defiant and war-mongering dictator in the global scene?

    • Shawn Matthew

      Don’t forget that the other side of the conflict consists of Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaida affiliated group.


      “Of course, we prefer the boot of the Assad regime on our necks, to the sword of al-Nusra.” – a Syrian Christian.

  • Curt Day

    The problem I had with the discussion is that it focussed so much on individual issues, some of which I would take issue with, that they didn’t mention that, when working for justice, we combine both individual actions with actions that challenge the system to change. And with the Christian emphasis of submitting to authority, this must be fully discussed so that we have thought about how Christians can Biblically challenge the system.

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  • josh

    All justice is social justice – justice can’t exist in isolation.

  • Women Living Well

    Thank you so much for this video. You said so much of my thoughts and challenged me to think about how I can do better in this area.
    Thank you,

  • Matt Smethurst

    Just a heads-up: Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert’s helpful contribution to this conversation, ‘What Is the Mission of the Church?: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission’ (Crossway), is only $2.99 today on Kindle.

    • Clark Dunlap

      Great discussion and good thoughts, but I have an issue with the phrase “Social Justice.” Can we do better than that as believers? Social justice to one person is helping people HAVE an abortion, to others its anti-abortion. Social justice to one is enabling able-bodied people to not work with free hand-outs, to another it’s helping the widows and orphans, truly poor and socially, racially, or corporately disenfranchised. NOt everything is a justice issue. It’s not unjust, necessarily to be poor. Its tragic in a society of our wealth for people to starve or not have housing or health care. And yes, often it is a justice issue, but not always.

  • Liz

    Such a needed conversation in the church, thank you!

    In my church, the abortion issue is viewed as Piper describes it. Many would see it as “unloving” to those who have had abortions to call it what it is, sin. It is not even touched as a topic from the leadership.
    Also, same-sex marriage is not addressed even though we have homosexual couples (with kids) attending every week.
    However, we are all over the sexual-modern day slavery movement. (partnering with those who do not share the gospel).

    In my time with the few gals I disciple, we discuss this very topic and how “slavery” is trending today, but the Lord’s heart is also for the unborn and the mothers who choose abortion and for those who are deceived (or maybe not) thinking same-sex intimacy is ok with Jesus.
    I attend a church of primarily 20-30 somethings with a well known pastor.

    I truly appreciate the conversation given here, it is like refreshing water to my soul, so encouraging.

  • Jared Nuzzolillo

    Christians, and therefore church leaders, have an obligation to draw attention to dark deeds and injustices, especially those that are by and large ignored-in-deed by the Church. AND they have an obligation to act.

    It’s not enough to say “We ought to care about the powerless, to feed and clothe them, and protect them from oppression” if we then take no action to fulfill their needs.

    It’s not “preach the gospel OR defend the unborn.” It’s preach the gospel AND defend the unborn. It’s a commitment to reflect the love of Christ in our lives through both word AND deed.

  • jch

    I think Chandler’s concern that, in our commitment to social justice, we can sever our behavior from the motive “for Jesus’ sake” is a valid one. Any social justice that does not proceed from faith in Christ is sinful. An unregenerate man can be persuaded to do “good deeds” but only a true believer can do them for love of His Lord.

  • Joel

    I’ve noticed that young evangelicals like to latch on to the non-controversial social justice issues. Abortion is the biggest human rights issue of our day, and very few in the social justice crowd will touch it with a ten foot pole. It’s easy to rail against human trafficking for good reason, but there is a very low percentage of the population who will oppose you. It’s very uncomfortable to speak truth about the reality of abortion and the lives that are ended because you will immediately have a host of enemies. We have a bunch of “social justice” evangelicals that want to be liked. Having a son with Down syndrome, I know a little about going against the grain of a culture where 95% choose to terminate babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb. Piper and co. have always been very committed to this, but some of our fresh faces aren’t nearly as interested in speaking out lest they offend.

  • Alfredo zavala

    These guys are my heroes.

  • Elizabeth Liddell

    I am sooo very thankful for this conversation. As a 20 something, I am a young evangelical who cares about social justice but I see the trend in non-believing 20 somethings that care just as much.. what makes us different? Unless we use the gospel as a means and framework for social justice then we are “trending” with the world on all these issues.

  • Steve Cornelll

    This is such an important subject, one worthy of the kind of reflection modeled in earlier times by Abraham Kuyper, Carl F. H. Henry and Richard Mouw (to name a few).

    We need a renewed and far deeper understanding of what it means to be called to be agents of common grace committed to the welfare of the city of our exile. This calling has profound theological foundations on at least three levels of shared life between redeemed and unredeemed.

    1. Common origin: God’s ownership and image as a universal human reality.
    2. Common Concerns: stewardship of the earth as a shared dwelling place
    3. Common Connections: accessible truth about God, moral order and transcendence.

    This calling is largely built on truth about the Imago Dei as part of a theological case for believing that, “God has lawfully ordered his creation in a way that all human beings have some sort of cognitive access to that lawfulness.” (Richard Mouw). Romans 2:15-16 appear to validate this cognitive access — even among those who don’t have access to Scripture.

    The realm of common grace presupposes an ability to have rational conversations about a common good with fellow human beings. In some political circumstances Christians must accept limitations and pursue other means of influence because they are not permitted to participate in choosing laws and policies. But as long as we live in a system that allows us to sit at the table to seek the good that leads to laws and policies, why would we neglect such a privilege? 

    Are there social, cultural and political agents of change ordained by God for the common good? Yes. And these are His gifts of common grace. Parents and authorities are two of the primary examples (Ephesians 6:1; Romans 13:1-4). Society benefits when parents are attentive and diligent. We need laws and law enforcement to protect us. We also need mentors to teach us and model for us.

    Yet the human need is far deeper than social or cultural change. Our nature itself must change. We need a change of being or ontological transformation. This change only comes through God’s gift of spiritual regeneration in the gospel. Rules and laws can be used to regulate behaviors but a change of being is nothing short of a creative act of God.

    God said, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19). We need a recreation or new creation by the renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) for the restoring of the image of God in us.

    I’ve said enough (perhaps too much) for now. Thank you for attention to this important subject.

  • Gigi

    This conversation came up recently in discussions with our pastor. Concerning, especially, homosexuality and what the church’s response needs to be. How do we show true love, the love of Christ, without condemnation(as we have all fallen short) and yet proclaim the biblical truth concerning the issue and not sound like hate or condemnation. It is so hard! Am I wrong in saying that the church is where the sinner needs to be, even those that have not yet turned from sin, so that the truth of the gospel can be heard, as we never know when the Holy Spirit might convict and bring about repentance? Do we welcome them (or any that are in any sin..openly or hidden….which could be any of us) in our congregations believing God will do a work, or are we creating an appearance of sin acceptance in doing so. How do we tackle these social justice issues, especially concerning sin, keeping Christ in the center and being the image of Christ and His love for them, to the sinner?? It’s much easier to show Christ to the poor, hungry and enslaved, but what about abortion, sexual sin, addiction, abuse…….areas where open sin is involved but are considered “social issues”. WWJD?

  • Steve Martin

    Social justice is a human concern. There is nothing inherently Christian about it.

    Yes…we ought do it. But proclaiming our need for a Savior, and then proclaiming the Savior that we need is paramount.

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  • ally

    Does Empathy motivate altruism? We wanted to find out and came up with this global empathy experiment.
    An original Homeless Empathy experiment on the power of mirror neurons. Believe it or not, even momentary empathic perspective-taking increased charitable behavior, i.e. more money donated.

    There’s a debate is science on whether Empathy can actually motivate us to do good without any personal gain. We found that it does but want you to try it out for yourself.