A Generation Known For…–Social Activism or Gospel Proclamation?

Posted: January 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

Recently I posted a status update on my Facebook account that I wanted to elaborate on here.  It seems to me that my generation, and the one coming after me, likes to fight social justice battles.  We will raise money to end human trafficking, feed the poor, and give clean-water to those who do not have it.  These are all wonderful endeavors and my thoughts that follow are not intended to diminish the goodness of those activities.  However, I also stated in my status update that I pray our generation, and the next, would be more concerned about gospel proclamation.  It is my belief that the proclaiming of the message of the gospel should take precedence over (while not excluding) social justice causes.

Here is the bottom line.  Read Psalms 58 and 51.  Read Romans 3:10-23; 6:23.  Pay attention to passages such as Romans 5:10.  When you do, you find that all of humanity comes into this world as sinners, deserving of the wrath of God.   We are not, in our unregenerate state, friends of God but stand as His enemies (Rom 5:10).  So our greatest need is peace with God.  We must be reconciled to Him before the “day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Rom 2:5).  And this leads to the good news of Jesus Christ (the gospel).  The wrath of God has been laid upon the shoulders of Jesus at the cross of Calvary for all those who will believe.  Isaiah, writing some 700 years before the crucifixion of Christ, tells us that “the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity (lawlessness) of us all” (Is 53:6).  We are told in the Bible that in Christ “the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands…He set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Col 2:14).  And the way we find this good news has been appropriated to us is if we repent of our sins and believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (John 3:16, Acts 16: 30-31; 17:30).  It is only through faith in Jesus that we have peace with God (Rom 5:1).

So, if Jesus is the only way to be saved from the wrath to come (because He alone has borne that wrath for the believer) and be reconciled to the Father (John 14:6; 1 John 5:12), then the message of what Jesus has done must be proclaimed.  This is why the apostle Paul would say in Romans 10:13-17 that the message must be preached.  Read Paul for himself:

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in Him whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’  But they have not all obeyed the gospel.  For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

It is clear then.  Every man, woman, and child is born separated from a holy God.  Only Jesus can save them.  It is only Christ who has went to the cross and paid the debt.  And that debt is paid for you only if you repent of sin and trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior.  This is the most important message in the world.  This is the mission of the church.  We are to take the good news of Jesus to a lost and dying world so that those who hear and believe will be reconciled to the God of heaven.  It is good news indeed. 

Now, the question is how social justice causes fit in.  There are numerous ways and it is not my intent to discuss all of that here.  I do believe, however, that as we become new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), we have a new mind.  Our worldview is changed.  We begin to see things differently.  Specifically, we begin to see things the way God does as His Word (the Bible) informs us.  We see all men and women as created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27).  We find that the call to love is foundational to being a follower of Christ because God is love (1 John 4:8).  And the love we are called to have is a love that acts (1 John 3:18).  Therefore, when we see things like human-trafficking, the poor without food or drink, and a thousand other social injustices, we are moved as those who bear God’s image are suffering.  It is right, then, that we seek to alleviate suffering.  It is good that we fight injustice.  But we must remember that simply fighting injustice itself is not the gospel.

If I raise millions to stop slavery, or feed a village, or build water purifying facilities, but fail to speak the gospel, then I have failed to meet the greatest need a person has.  They may be free from human bondage but are still slaves to sin (Rom 6:17).  I may feed a village but they still do not have the food that endures to eternal life (John 6:27).  And they may have clean water but will continue to lack a water that will satisfy them for eternity (John 4:14).  Without the gospel of Jesus Christ, our social justice activism will only make people more comfortable in their journey towards hell.

So, balance is needed.  As we are conformed into the image of Jesus it is my hope and prayer that my generation and all subsequent generations will have broken hearts for those who are oppressed, hungry, and thirsty.  I pray that we seek to alleviate some of that suffering.  But I also pray we realize that until the Kingdom of God is ushered in fully and finally at the return of Jesus, none of these social injustices will end.  These things will only end when Jesus returns and wipes away every tear (Rev 21:4).  That doesn’t mean we don’t fight, it simply means we are aware that we are fighting a battle that we will not win in this age.  Victory will come when Jesus brings it.

Until then, the greatest need people have is to hear the gospel.  Our social activism can certainly open the door for the gospel to be preached.  Many of the miracles Jesus did while on the earth were done to gain Him the ears of the people.  Then He proclaimed the message of the kingdom.  Our social activism must be done with the same goal.  We want to open the door for people to hear about Jesus. 

So, for me, if I am forced to make a decision between giving water to a thirsty man or telling him about Jesus…I tell him about Jesus every time.  Of course, that is a hypothetical situation.  In our days we probably have the chance to do both.  So we should.  But the hypothetical makes the point.  The sharing of Jesus takes precedence over social justice activism.

Let us be a generation that is known more for proclaiming the gospel.

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