Some of us are naturally more compassionate than others. When war breaks out, we find out how we can help at the refugee camps. When we learn of human trafficking, we want to start a support network. No one suffers to our knowledge without us mourning their suffering and wanting to do something to help. Volunteer organizations and nonprofits that fight for social justice are staffed and supported predominately by us.
Social Justice Warriors
Social justice warriors, people like to call us, often derisively. We cannot bear the oppression of the weak; we must speak up or serve in some way. And that’s a good thing. The Bible tells us many times to do just that, as you can see from just a sampling of verses:
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9, NIV (right before describing the excellent wife)
“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” Psalm 82:3
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
Job reminds God that he has, “rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist them.” (Job 29:12) And God was pleased with Job’s actions, as you can see from the conversation with Satan at the beginning of the book when God points out how righteous his servant Job is.
The Old Testament has repeated warnings against taking advantage of the poor, the foreigner, the widow, the fatherless. Psalm 146:9 says that the Lord himself “watches over” and “sustains” these helpless groups of people.
So, fellow social justice warriors, what you desire is good and right in the eyes of the Lord. You want justice for the oppressed, food for the hungry, and comfort for those who mourn. God wants those same things. But I must warn you: In your hunger for social justice, do not forget about or try to replace the gospel.In your hunger for social justice, do not forget about or try to replace the gospel. Click To Tweet
The Social Gospel
I spent several years following what you could call a “social gospel.” The social gospel finds truth and rightness in living with the poor, in serving others, in apparent kindness. But it so often pushes the actual gospel right out the window. I say ‘apparent kindness,’ because no matter how much better you make someone’s life in a temporal, physical way, if you don’t tell them how to solve their greatest problem, you have failed to be kind. We are not truly loving when we know that this homeless man, this orphan, and this refugee are enemies of God–and we say nothing. We don’t want to offend. In my case, I often spent hours volunteering in the vain hope that because the people I helped knew I was a Christian, they would want to know the same God I knew. Yet, I was too often silent about their great need to make things right with God.No matter how much better you make someone's life in a temporal, physical way, if you don't tell them how to solve their greatest problem, you have failed to be kind.Click To Tweet
Does it matter that you fed them when they could die tomorrow and spend eternity in hell? Your kindness, my kindness, wasn’t really kindness at all.
The social gospel makes the world more comfortable. But it does nothing for eternity. We spend only 70 or so years here. That’s a very short span in the light of eternity.
So What is the Gospel?
“Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 2He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” I Peter 1:17-21, NIV
Is our faith and hope in God, who can raise from the dead? Or is our faith and hope placed in the works of social justice we can accomplish?
Christ lived a perfect life because we couldn’t. He died a death we deserved. He arose from the dead, giving us hope of eternal life. Jesus Christ is the one who upholds all of creation. And yet we cannot be bothered to speak of Him? Peter continues the story:
“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness…” I Peter 2:23-24, NIV
He Himself bore our sins?
That’s worth speaking about. If we are brave enough to be social justice warriors who fight for the cause of the poor and oppressed, then, PLEASE, GOD, may we be brave enough to speak of the Messiah who bore our sin upon Himself and grants eternal life to those who repent and believe.
So What’s the Answer?
Do I regret the years I spent teaching refugees, serving orphans, visiting widows, giving food to the homeless? Absolutely not. I have no doubt that the Lord wanted me to do that work and wants me to continue as I am able in this new stage of starting my own family. It will look different in the coming years, but the commands in Scripture are clear about our task and responsibility.
What I do regret are the times I could have said more and didn’t. I regret the conversations in which I showed others sympathy but did not show them Christ.
Please don’t follow that path.
Don’t Be Deceived by the Call of the Social Gospel.
The social gospel’s admittedly compelling call is the quote many attribute to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”
People, it is necessary to use words. Yes, it is God who changes hearts. But He sends us with His words to be the instruments in His hands. “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” I Corinthians 1:21, KJV
Yes, it looks like foolishness to the world. That shouldn’t matter. May we social justice warriors have enough compassion to speak the truth.Is our faith and hope in God, who can raise from the dead? Or is our faith and hope placed in the works of social justice we can accomplish?Click To Tweet