Many people today see Jesus mainly as a social justice warrior who came to earth to tear down societal structures that hurt the poor and oppressed. True, the Old Testament longing for a Messiah was, in many ways, a longing for liberation. The Messiah would bring good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and set the prisoners free (Isaiah 61:1–2). Humanity’s sin knocked the moral universe out of its orbit, affecting every person and aspect of creation. But through the Messiah, God makes all things new and enables us to become “right-makers.”
Christians believe, based on the testimony of fulfilled prophecy, the reliability of Scripture, and the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection, that Jesus is the Messiah. Speaking as the Messiah, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). It’s a threefold claim that has significant implications for justice.
First, Jesus claimed to be the way. His disciples would have recognized the term “the way” as the Hebrew word derek, which refers to the overall direction of a person’s life. There is a good way to go and a bad way to go. Jesus doesn’t just point the way; he is the way. His teachings show what redemption looks like lived out. Neighbors seek peace, resolve anger, speak forthrightly, resist retaliation for personal offenses, love their enemies, and give to those in need. The kingdom journey is not a set of rules but a person, leading to a God who sees us not as his slaves but as his children (John 1:12).
Second, Jesus also claimed to be the truth. A biblical worldview—as opposed to a secular, Marxist, or postmodern one—tells us that the tension over race and justice must be guided by reality, not the naked pursuit of power. Jesus claimed to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy about the coming Messiah (Luke 4: 21). Isaiah 42 says of the Messiah, “He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth.” Christians should not talk about truth as if it is a matter of opinion. There is no room for “my truth” or “your truth.” It is about the truth. Truth exists. Justice is real. We know things are not as they ought to be because we know what “ought” is. The Messiah is the truth.
Finally, Jesus claimed to be the life. Through Jesus, a life of shalom—wholeness or completeness—becomes possible. Shalom doesn’t divide; it multiplies. In shalom, we ask, How can we help each other grow as persons and flourish as image bearers of God? Shalom doesn’t just feed the hungry or rescue the oppressed. It transforms the poor into good stewards who bear fruit. It turns the rescued into rescuers. And it rescues the rescuers from patronizing pride as they realize that they are growing and benefiting every bit as much as those they seek to help.