Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Social Justice and Evangelism

This from Stan Guthrie in CT's January '08 issue.
Evangelism--calling sinful people to repent and follow Jesus--is always a tougher sell than giving a cup of cold water. . . . Maybe our preference for social activism reveals a more basic problem: that we don't really believe our neighbor's deepest need is to be forgiven by and reconciled to God. We seem to think that if only he or she is fed, or lives in a society brimming with Christian principles, or sees our battles against the worlds' many injustices, the we will have discharged our responsibility to Christ.
I think Stan is basically right, but I wonder if evangelism is alway a tougher sell for everyone. For some, preaching hell-fire and brimstone is much easier than the cup of cold water. Perhaps the trick is knowing which direction your flesh wants to take you, and making conscious effort to go the opposite.

5 comments:

Bradley said...

Great thoughts Gerald.

"Maybe our preference for social activism reveals a more basic problem: that we don't really believe our neighbor's deepest need is to be forgiven by and reconciled to God."

Well ... MAYBE is the key word in that sentence. But here's something that, in my opinion, deserves more than a maybe:

The most ideal context in which to share the gospel is a context in which your lifestyle and self-less service of others has already become a live and graphic demonstration of the person of Christ; He is loving; He is compassionate; He is merciful and full of grace; He forgives; He humbled himself to serve others; He used his power to heal the sick and cure the blind (to help those in need); etc. etc.

All other things being equal, the gospel shines the brightest on the lips of those who lay down their lives for the poor, the afflicted, and the needy.

Gerald said...

Agreed.

George said...

Maybe we could react to the flesh, or alternatively we could see from scripture how the early church did it.

Gerald said...

"maybe we could see from Scripture..."

But that's the rub, isn't it? We tend to see in Scripture what we want to see. Some want to see social justice, and some want to see preaching. Knowing what you want to see (and what you don't want to see) helps us be more objective and honest when we consider the tension between these two mandates.

George said...

Well, sure, we tend to see what we want to see, in scripture and elsewhere. But I don't know how reliable it would be to either follow what we think is right, or pursue the opposite on the basis of opposing the flesh.

If we asked: Well, what did they do in Acts? We could go thru and list it all. We could cross off the stuff that was occasion-specific, like replacing Judas. We could cross off the stuff in which they were passive. Then we'd be left with what they did. We could identify what they did that was not found appropriate, like pretending to give all when we gave part. After this we'd be left with what they did that was found to be appropriate. Then that could guide us today.

Simplistic, I suppose. But if we worked thru the exercise with discipline, we'd not just see what we wanted to see.