The term social justice has become a volatile catchphrase that is bound to stir up emotions across the political spectrum. Though the Bible clearly calls us to uphold justice, some have hijacked the vocabulary of justice to promote an agenda contrary to God, his commandments, and his design. These people proceed with a presumption of their own righteousness. However, the biblical starting point for godly social justice is not self-righteous indignation, but mourning. Yet, that mourning is not without hope. The gospel has good news for mourners. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).
Reasons to Mourn
Every person has reasons to mourn, but not all do. Pain, suffering, disease, and death confront us wherever we turn. Choosing to avoid these discomforting thoughts, many distract themselves with diversions. Others respond with anger or despair. We all have experienced a tremendous loss as a result of sin and the curse. That which was “very good” (Gen. 1:31) is now in “bondage to corruption” (Rom. 8:20-21). God wants us to mourn (Rom. 8:22-23).
Moral evil also surrounds us, from worldwide conflicts to family strife. Injustice is systemic, but not confined to one sphere or attributable to one category of people. Sin reigns in the heart of man by nature. Though it is a cause for anger and action, it stirs a deeper ache in the heart of the believer. The whole human race is depraved. We mourn over the sin that has infected and corrupted the image of God (Rom. 3:10-19).
Yet, a more ardent groaning and grieving grips the heart of the Christian. I believe it can only increase as the believer grows in grace. I am sixty-six years old and have been a believer for about forty-seven years. God has faithfully cared for me, patiently instructed me, and repeatedly forgiven me. He has lavished his grace on me, yet my heart can be so cold toward Him. I can still approach prayer and Bible reading with reluctance – a sense of duty rather than delight. The noxious root of sin runs deep in my heart. I understand why the apostle Paul cried out, “Wretched man that I am!” (Rom. 7:24).
Blessed with Mourning
Though all these evils are a great source of pain and sorrow, the mourning that moves us to cry out to God is a blessing. “Blessed are those who mourn” (Matt. 5:4). It is a sacred irony that can only be understood in light of the gospel. God has determined to restore what has been ruined and ravaged, to redeem what disobedience has forfeited, and “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). In carrying out his purpose, he first exposes the darkness and misery of sin. It is the searchlight of divine love that exposes our darkness (2 Cor. 4:6). In addition, godly mourning is an indication that Christ has won our hearts. “True mourning begins in the love of God, and ends in the hatred of sin” (Thomas Watson).
Comfort for Mourners
Indeed, our heavenly Father is called “the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction” (2 Cor. 1:3). He has sent the Holy Spirit to indwell each believer as the Comforter (or Helper John 14:16). The Holy Spirit is “the firstfruits” (Rom. 8:23) and “the guarantee of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:14). He is a constant witness to God’s promise to redeem our weak and failing bodies and restore this fallen creation to a world of perfect beauty and wholeness (Rom. 8:18-21; Rev. 21:1-4).
When our sin causes us to decry our wretchedness, the gospel of comfort reminds us:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:1-4)
We still battle sin, but “sin will not have dominion over [us], since [we] are not under the law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). God has started the work of conforming us to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29), and what he has started he will complete (Phil. 1:6). Our faith may be weak, but the object of our faith is “the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8). Our love may be cold, however, we rely not on our love for him but on his love for us. It is in the hothouse of his love that our love grows and matures (1 John 4:16-19).
So for the believer, mourning is not to be avoided, but sought after and embraced (Jas. 4:8-10). Do you find yourself mourning over sin and its consequences? Look in faith to the one who has promised you comfort. “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word” (2 Thes. 2:16-17).
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