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Making Disciples Means Working for Justice

Scripture is clear that both go hand in hand.

In seminary, my discipleship courses had a particular focus: passing on what the apostles had taught about doctrines like the Atonement and practices like Bible reading and prayer. For me, as for many evangelicals today, this made discipleship mainly a matter of nurturing faith and spiritual growth.

Michael J. Rhodes had a similar experience. But then one day he heard John Perkins speak: “He pointed out all this stuff in Scripture I’d never paid attention to, stuff that had never crossed my discipleship radar.” Poverty relief, love for other races and ethnicities, and other justice issues were central to the discipleship modeled by Jesus and the apostles.

Rhodes, a pastor and an Old Testament professor, came to realize that community justice needs to be part of Christian discipleship, “not because of some liberal agenda or to ‘keep up with the times,’” but “because ‘the Bible tells us so!’” And so he devoted himself to this fuller perspective in his own ministry. His book Just Discipleship: Biblical Justice in an Unjust World is the fruit of that work.

The book is structured in four parts. The first gives a biblical definition of justice and shows its place within the Bible’s mandate for discipleship. As Rhodes observes, the American church in particular has “offered the world a justice-less, or at least justice-light, version of our faith,” but Scripture is a story of unjust people being justified and renewed in God’s just image.

Part 2 explores several ways God’s people were shaped for justice in biblical times, distilling key concepts from those examples for our own day. Rhodes explores the just community created through Israel’s …

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