Saturday, March 27, 2010

Jesus and the "Social Justice" League

I was reading a friend's blog over a week ago, and I ran across something from the Bible that I had no clue about. My friend was writing about how Believers in society are to be "Salt & Light" to that society, and one of the verses he referenced was Ezekiel 16:49.

"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom:
She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned;
they did not help the poor or the needy."

Most folks feel that the reason that God wiped out Sodom & Gomorrah was because of sexual perversion. As bad as that was, that was apparently NOT the final straw for God. Apparently what finally made God angry enough to bring the heat was their attitudes & actions towards those who were most vulnerable. (That brings whole new life to the telling of that story from Genesis.)

So anyway, a few days later I was poking around the net, and I came across this video. Take a look...

Now obviously this whole thing is a spoof. But there were quite a few truths in it that are not only relative to the church in America, but also sadly lacking in much of the church in America.

Joe's Thoughts & Observations on the Video:

#1. Glen Beck's understanding of historic, orthodox Christianity could fill a thimble. (Remember folks, he's an "Entertainer." He will say whatever gets the ratings and his listeners all worked up...even though it is highly doubtful that he actually believes half of what comes flying out of his mouth.)

#2. Steven Colbert is also an entertainer, but at least he admits that he is mocking his own show as he does his shtick. That having been said, much of what he stated is actually frighteningly embraced by much of the church in America. Maybe not so much in words, but certainly in behavior. (I love the idea that the cross is a plus symbol which means that Jesus wants us to acquire more "Stuff.")

#3. Father Jim misspoke when he answered Colbert that one of the rewards for serving the poor was eternal salvation. Sorry folks, that's called "Works," and it's pretty clear from the Bible that no one can work their way into heaven. Scripture is clear that salvation is from Christ alone, and it comes through "Grace." By the very definition of the word, you can't earn Grace.

Joe's Thoughts & Observations on Social Justice:

#1. YES, people who advocate Social Justice can go way to far. And as a matter of fact, some who advocate Social Justice have absolutely nothing to do with Christ. At other times, some use the Bible to justify all kinds of weird stuff in the name of Social Justice. Anyone who reads up on "Liberation Theology" can find people who use the Bible to justify taking up their AK47s to join Marxist guerrillas in the jungles of the Philippines.

#2. YES, there are plenty of lazy poor people out there. I see them every week at the store. I know they are out there. I'm not denying it.

All of that having been said...

#3. Throw all of the silly politics out of the mix. Colbert was correct in saying that at it's core, Social Justice really is about helping poor people...and marginalized/oppressed people too. It's as simple as that.

#4. One reason that some Christians resist getting involved in Social Justice issues is because of the whole idea of "Works." The worry is that if the church or Believers start working on a given issue, pretty soon that is all the church will do. The Bible will get tossed out, or biblical truth will be watered down. All that will be left is a "Social Gospel."

My response to that is to point out that if the church does NOT get involved in Social Justice issues, then Believers are leaving those issues to those who really & truly ONLY have a Social Gospel, with no biblical orthodoxy behind it.

#5. Another reason some Christians resist is because of the idolatry of politics. For some, certain Social Justice issues have such political overtones to them, that to be involved with that issue is to be branded with a political lable.

Unfortunately, a huge chunk of the church has been seduced by secular politics into thinking that the "Kingdom of Man" and the "Kingdom of God" are one and the same. (Because as we all know, America is God's chosen land. And if we go away, Christianity will no longer exist.)

So many Christians I know will pay more attention to what they hear some loudmouth on the radio saying, then they will to their own Bible. It happens on both extremes of the political spectrum, but for some reason it is more common on the Right.

My response to that is to point out the irony that Believers have been active in Social Justice issues since the beginning...they just never used that term for it. (They most likely would have used some crazy phrases like "Following Jesus," or "Living out my faith in fear and trembling," or "What would Jesus do?")

An Extremely Brief History:
- In Acts 4 we see that the early church shared everything they had so that there were no needy people among them. (Obviously, the Apostles were Communists.)

- In the Roman plague that ran from 165-180 AD, the church in Rome stuck around the city to aid those dying, and to bury the dead. Historians estimate that up to 2000 people were dying every day. These Believers put their lives on the line as a witness to the Pagans. They knew full well that they could die from doing this...and they were still officially being persecuted.

- Fast forward to 1780 in the U.K. and you will find Robert Raikes creating the first Sunday Schools. He did this NOT for explicit religious instruction, but to teach underclass children the basics of education.

- Jump ahead only a couple of years and you will find folks like William Wilberforce and John Wesley standing up against the institution of slavery. It wasn't long before Evangelicals in the U.S. were taking up the cause of the Abolition of Slavery.

- In 1878, William & Catherine Booth established the Salvation Army. They do more then ring bells outside stores. I've been privileged to see their work with the poor first hand. It's amazing what they can do in the name of Jesus.

- I think you get the idea...

Why is this relevant to the church today?

It is very clear from any of the Gospels that Jesus identified himself with the poor and vulnerable. In fact, in Matthew 25, when Jesus talks about Judgement Day, it's fairly clear that he expects his followers to have been a people of action, and not just words. Giving aid and comfort to those in need is a way of identifying with Christ.

I want to point out again that this is NOT a way to earn your salvation. But my contention is that belief will ALWAYS result in action. If it does not, then I really have to question wether or not you actually DO believe.

Example: That coffee cup you are sipping from right now. If you really believed that it was a bomb that would go off in 30 seconds, would you keep drinking out of it, or would you toss it out the window? True belief ALWAYS results in actions.

Believers should be hip deep in Social Justice issues as a witness to the whole world. Our actions are the most powerful testimony that we have. If following Jesus is nothing more than a "Get out of Hell, Free" ticket, and "Pie in the Sky when you Die," then it will have no relevant impact on the here & now. But if we take the words of the Bible seriously when it says things like...
"But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."
Show me your faith without deeds,
and I will show you my faith by what I do."
James 2:18

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,
but in humility consider others better than yourself.
Each of you should look out not only to your own interests,
but also to the interests of others."
Phil. 2: 18 & 19

...think how we would change the world.

We get involved out of a thankful heart because of what Jesus has done for us. We are to roll up our sleeves and be a people of action because that is how we demonstrate Christ's love to a broken world. Believers ought to do Good Works as a testimony and witness to the truth of Christ. Actions will always speak louder than words. We should shine.

Make 'em wonder what you've got.
Make 'em wish that they were not
on the outside looking bored

Let it shine before all men.
Let 'em see good works and then,
Let 'em Glorify the Lord



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