“Just preach the gospel.” “If people were this fired up about Jesus’ death, the world would be changed.” “Be careful of churches ‘going liberal.'” “A social gospel is a false gospel.”
Have you heard or thought of any of these ideas over the past few weeks? I have. And there is some merit to them, to be sure. Jesus Himself said, “what good will it do to gain the whole world and yet forfeit your soul.” Further, many who are alive today have seen churches and denominations lose their prophetic edge as they have been conformed to the image of this world rather than transformed by the renewing of their minds.
Is this current moment where the world is screaming for justice any different? Is it dangerous for the church to link arms with the world as it cries out?
If asked sincerely, these questions are good and wise. They ought not to be dismissed. If we consider them, we’ll see that the church ought to be fully engaged at this moment.
Christ in Politics
Have you heard people say that we should worry about changing hearts, not laws? Have you wondered why those two purposes are set up in a binary, mutually exclusive way? Are they? It seems to me that not only can we do both at the same time, but attempting to opens up far more doors to deep, heart-level conversations.
For as long as I can remember, Christians have been actively involved in changing laws. Pro-life? Traditional marriage? It seems to me that it might be helpful to ask – why is advocating for reform on economic, housing, education, and criminal justice policies – viewed differently?
When I consider the Scriptures, it appears that God has regularly had people involved in politics. The examples of the kings of Israel may not be appropriate, as Israel was a theocratic nation-state. America is not. But what about Joseph? Daniel? Nehemiah? Esther? Looks like God has regularly had His people advocate for the values of His Kingdom while in the middle of pagan nations. Like America. Seems to me that the issue is not so much political, but partisan.
May Your Kingdom Come
“This world will always be broken. It is not our home. We should not try to make it be.” This argument is typically stated so that we wouldn’t divert our focus from preaching the gospel and get “sucked into” broader social reform.
As I stated previously, these opportunities are not mutually exclusive. We regularly and rightly pour ourselves out in hope of change and health. Take marriage as an example. No marriage will be perfected until Jesus comes back to claim His bride and gives us all one perfect marriage. Still, many labor in premarital and marital counseling. We run ourselves into the ground to save marriages that are on the brink of disaster. We invest in the front end of marriages in an attempt to prevent disaster. And yet we all know that no marriage will be perfect. Some of our efforts will prove futile as some marriages will still end.
This is why we also “Seek the good of the city to which God has sent us. And pray for the city. Because in it’s welfare we will find ours.”
If there are unjust laws that make it hard for people to live in a home – why wouldn’t we work to help people have safe and sufficient housing? At every level of the conversation? If we believe that reading the Bible is critical for the Christian faith, why wouldn’t we work at every level to help people learn how to read?
We don’t have to be afraid of integrating our Christ-exalting, gospel-centered, Bible grounded faith in every aspect of our lives and God’s creation. That includes culture, government, family, and more. I would submit to you for your consideration that it is actually far more dangerous not to. For our own souls and for the world. After all, faith without works is dead. What would happen to the government – or any other organization – if Christians refuse to engage?
If we look at the world through the lens of Scripture, I believe we will see that engaging in issues of Biblical justice, for the good of the world, lets us see more of God and more of the gospel, not less. Perhaps we ought to preach the gospel – to ourselves. Maybe it would help us if we daily remembered that Jesus, though He was rich, became poor so that through His poverty, we might become rich – in Him. Maybe our hearts would soften if we reflected on the truth that the King of all Creation made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. The cross we deserve to hang on.
Perhaps if we saw the depths that God had to go to rescue our souls, because He so loved us, then maybe we would see that He so loves the world that now He is sending us into the world with the love that He first loved us with.
Let’s preach the gospel – and apply the gospel. Let us bring the gospel to bear on every area of brokenness in this world so that people from every tribe, nation, and tongue can delight themselves in the God of the gospel.