Well, necessary to what? To gospel mission.

I don’t want to confuse anyone about my stance on this, but just as I’m concerned about any good works (whether it’s feeding the poor or my having a quiet time) muddling the free grace in the finished work of the gospel, I’m also concerned about those of the brethren who somehow extrapolate that the cause of other-care is expendable.

These are just bullet points, but here’s why I think social justice is a necessary component of mission.

1. God doesn’t suggest we care for widows and orphans; he commands we do so. And not just a few times.

2. In the miracles of Christ we see signs of God’s inbreaking kingdom, which is to say not just that they signify God’s power in Christ’s Lordship but that they signify that God’s kingdom is restoring righteous order to the world. Acts of social justice, in much the same way, are these signs. The gospel changes the world.

3. In the letter to the Galatians, when Paul was confirming that “his” gospel was on the same page as the gospel of Peter, James, and John, those pillars reminded him to care for the poor, which Paul says is the thing he is eager to do (2:10). So even within the contextualized mission of the same gospel message to different cultures/tribes, care for the poor is a constant.

4. God is redeeming people, but he is also redeeming creation, which is outright groaning for its restoration. When the Christian enacts social justice for the glory of God, he is engaging in acts of eucatastrophe, redeeming the time in pointing to the Christ-shaped path back to the Garden. Christian social justice gives witness to the rightside-upness of God’s kingdom.

5. When we are saved, we are changed from self-worshipers to God-worshipers, and as God equates love of our neighbor with demonstrated love of him, acts of social justice are proof of our redemption.

6. When you read through the Old Testament Law, you find an astounding amount of strictures not just on right relations with the community but also about meals, about work, about forgiveness of debt, about rest days, even about how to treat livestock. This tells us that there is a righteous order God expects his righteous people to live within. The work of social justice testifies to this order.

7. Caring for “the least of these” is caring for Christ. (Matt. 25:40)

8. For those who would say we should care for the poor, but for the Christian poor, not necessarily the poor of the world, I offer but two objections:

a. What do we do with the parable of the Good Samaritan, in which the “bad guy,” the outsider, is made the hero of the story? This parable is given in response to the question “Who is my neighbor?” Doesn’t this story, even if it were all we had as a clue of who to care for, say something radical about our scope of concern?

b. The mission of Jesus Christ was to love you and I while we were most decidedly not Christians. We were poor in spirit, enemies of Christ and his kingdom, and he offered his body for us anyway. Is it even Christian, then, to say we will only care for those who are like us? For some reason it doesn’t occur to us to question foreign missionaries who give of themselves, even to the point of death, for the lost and the pagan overseas. But stateside we give the unsaved scraps from the table.

Yes, the riches of Christ is all the satisfaction a sinner needs, and we must never obscure or dilute that good news, even with works that are good. If silver and gold have we none, “such as we have” is nonetheless eternally precious. But if we have the silver and gold, shouldn’t we give that too? Some may think that to be so free is to obscure the real pearl of great price. But in a delicious biblical irony, loving generosity doesn’t show we think money is important, but rather that we find money cheap in comparison to the treasure of Christ.

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Comments:


22 thoughts on “Why Social Justice is Necessary”

  1. Pastor RB says:

    Solid article. Something to add to point #2… Jesus' miracles were often followed by his request for the recipient to not tell anyone ("the Messianic secret" or information management). It could be argued that Jesus' purpose for this was to keep the focus on his primary purpose, namely his atoning work on the cross. The restoration of all creation comes as a result of the cross, but does not supplant the provision of atonement that restores man's relationship with God. Therefore, Jesus didn't elevate "social" justice over his redemptive work. If he keeps this order of priorities, so should we.

  2. Aaron says:

    Yes, love the article. I have been studying the book of Hebrews lately. Consider chapter 11. Verse 37 says that some of the faithful were stoned, sawn in two, tempted, put to death with the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins and were afflicted and ill treated. Unlike the first group of faithful who did things like shut the mouths of lions and put foreign armies to flight (verse 33 & 34), this second group may have not received social justice. But certainly their eternal reward.

  3. Wenatchee the Hatchet says:

    I knew something like this was probably going to show up. :-) Well articulated. There are times when we are tempted to say this or that person is a lost cause or that their condition is too far gone to remedy. Now if we ourselves don't have the resources to aid those people we can't aid them but if we don't want to invest in what we consider lost causes we must paradoxically remember that Christ gave Himself for us when we were utterly lost causes ourselves. It is in this light of Christ giving us a gift we cannot possibly repay that His teaching to lend without expecting anything in return can strike us in our weakness of wanting to only give to winning causes and winning people.

  4. Chris Krycho says:

    (1) Right on. Much of the ongoing conversation about "missional" and "incarnational" ministry seems to have fallen into one of several traps: (a) getting hung up on the terms themselves, (b) conflating social justice with the gospel itself, or (c) seeing social justice as an hindrance to the real work of gospel proclamation, rather than a compliment to it. The New Testament, just like the Old, is rather unambiguously clear, though: the gospel trains our hands for good works (if James doesn't hammer it through our heads enough, Titus ought to).(2) Thanks for the Tolkien reference. It makes my day any time anyone nerdily busts out references to Tolkien's quiet literary-theological genius.

  5. Art Mealer says:

    In regards to reaching out to the Christian poor only, I think the biblical view is "especially" rather than "only."As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. -Gal 6:10

  6. Jared says:

    Art, I am with you except that the "especially" starts to sound like "only" when I hear some prominent figures explain what "especially" means.I also find it odd that the overwhelming number of texts on care for the poor and marginalized get filtered through not just this one verse (which says "go good to all") but one word in that one verse. Weird. I believe in many cases it is an example of the exegetical tail wagging the Scriptural dog.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Jesus doesn't teach us to work towards "social justice", he commanded us to love each other…The main problem that has occurred, is that somewhere in the last decade or so, the 'Christian zeitgeist' has been influenced to such a degree that this concept of "social justice" has been accepted as the definition for tangibly showing Christian love…But "social justice" is a radically different concept than simply loving a neighbor in tangible ways. "Social justice" means exactly what the term would imply, achieving "justice" on a societal level. In short, it means trying to "fix" all the stuff that we see as being "broken" in society, whether it be some type of inequality, or widespread need, or whatever. Essentially, it means accepting a role as Christians where we try and become 'social architects', in order to achieve lasting change for the broader society…However, this is huge shift away from what Christ talked about. HE says:But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. [Matthew 6:3,4]The emphasis, from Jesus' point of view, is on giving and loving others with the aim of being rewarded by God Himself, and not to try and accomplish any sort of recognition from people… But, when we start equating "loving our neighbor" with enacting change on the societal level, then it is all about receiving recognition from people… Are we called to love and show mercy to all men, regardless of where they stand in regards to Jesus? Yes, absolutely… Are we commanded to take care of all the widows and orphans in the world??? No. That is where the church is mandated to take of their own! (And ironically, probably at least 99% of churches do not even do this, so it's kinda silly to talk about tackling things like poverty or homelessness on a massive scale…)The gospel of Jesus does not have the same aim as democracy, or socialism, or any other humanly-devised system that seeks to make things "fair" on Earth… I guess all this just goes to say, that we as Christians need to stop, and rethink, and redraw clear lines, clear distinctions, betweent these two very different concepts, before going on any further….Daneil

  8. Jared says:

    when we start equating "loving our neighbor" with enacting change on the societal level, then it is all about receiving recognition from people…Daneil, I believe this key assumption of yours is wrong, therefore I disagree with you.This is not an endorsement of the so-called "social gospel," which is deserving of rejection."Social justice," as evangelicals like myself and others use it, is about living as if Jesus' kingship and kingdom are true. It is about obeying Jeremiah 22:3 and Micah 6:8. We are commanded to "do justice."I actually think that many Christians disobey these commands out of "recognition" of arguments like yours. We fear being labeled liberals or socialists more than we fear God.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Interesting, because I'd argue heavily that the term "social justice" is THE most fundamental concept/term being affirmed by the promoters of the "social gospel". If you rightly reject their teaching, then shouldn't we be careful not to throw their terminology around?But that's what you're really talking about in this post, isn't it? Where is that line, where true Christian love end, and the "social gospel" begins?The fact is, there are several things you said which, to me, are rather plain expositions of social-gospel thinking. (and btw, have you ever heard someone who admitted they were teaching a "social gospel"…?)You said, "In the miracles of Christ we see signs of God's inbreaking kingdom, which is to say not just that they signify God's power in Christ's Lordship but that they signify that God's kingdom is restoring righteous order to the world." So God is restoring "righteous order to the world"? Do you mean after the Judgement? (I'm assuming you don't mean that…) and if not, then maybe the comparisons to socialism aren't all that far-fetched…You also said, "…acts of social justice are proof of our redemption." Scripture says that the Holy Spirit is the proof of our redemption, and what is evidence of the Spirit? Love… But is that really the same thing as "acts of social justice"?How much evidence would it take to convince us that there are people all over the place, who worship all kinds of things and believe all sorts of lies, who believe in "acts of social justice"? After all there are buddhist soup kitchens, and muslim charitable organizations, and plenty of atheists who care about people going hungry… Yes, we are commanded to "do justice", but that is a command to our own, personal life and decisions. "Social justice" is a different thing altogether, and if we are not trying to present a "social gospel", then why the heck would we use a term like "social justice"???

  10. Jared says:

    If you rightly reject their teaching, then shouldn't we be careful not to throw their terminology around?I am not one to give up words to someone else just because they use them a lot. I'd rather use them correctly. (Same reason I still identify as "evangelical" despite many evangelicals saying we should ditch the term.)So God is restoring "righteous order to the world"? Do you mean after the Judgement?Yes, after the judgement at the consummation of his kingdom, when the new heavens and new earth break in. But yes, also before the judgment, through the power of the gospel carried by the mission of the church. When souls are saved and the church obeys God's commands, God is restoring order.Scripture says that the Holy Spirit is the proof of our redemption, and what is evidence of the Spirit? Love… But is that really the same thing as "acts of social justice"?Acts of social justice may or may not be love, depending on the motivation of the one conducting them, depending on who is being glorified.I'm only trying to track with James here when he says faith without works isn't even faith. And I track with the Scriptures that say that there is no greater love than to lay down one's life.How much evidence would it take to convince us that there are people all over the place, who worship all kinds of things and believe all sorts of lies, who believe in "acts of social justice"? After all there are buddhist soup kitchens, and muslim charitable organizations, and plenty of atheists who care about people going hungry…I make this exact same point in my recent post (still on the main page of the blog) in which I argue that "social justice" is NOT part of the content of the gospel. I clearly reject social gospel. And in fact if you'd just scroll down a few posts you will find three other posts that clearly outline how I believe social justice is not part of the gospel's contents but its implications.You can say I sound like a socialist all you want, but most of my posts on this subject get me called the opposite.why the heck would we use a term like "social justice"???Because it is a perfectly biblical concept when used in biblical ways and if Christ is Lord over language, it makes no sense to me to give perfectly good phrases to people who don't know how to use them.

  11. Jared says:

    Just to help you out:One of the 3 other posts is here:http://gospeldrivenchurch.blogspot.com/2010/10/gospels-irreducible-complexity.htmlIn that one, I write:Heck, Angelina Jolie has adopted, what?, 300 orphans? Isn't George Clooney saving the world? Matt Damon fights for social justice, and he does it without a splinter's notion of the gospel.Are we supposed to be doing these things too? Yes. It is the command of God to love our neighbor.But social justice is not unique to Christianity, and in fact if social justice is the good news, we bear the same message as lots of people who are going to hell. Social justice, then, is salvifically neutral. And therefore, while it accompanies and may testify to the good news, it cannot be the good news itself.Feel free to disagree with what I've written, but the suggestion that I'm promoting a social gospel is ridiculous and clearly wrong.

  12. Anonymous says:

    "Because it is a perfectly biblical concept when used in biblical ways and if Christ is Lord over language, it makes no sense to me to give perfectly good phrases to people who don't know how to use them"…Ah, I think I understand where you're coming from a little better (and totally agree in the rejection of the social gospel), but Dude! You really think that the term "social justice" is primarily an orthodox Christian term that has been usurped by liberal theologians? I'd have to argue that it is the other way around, that it is an unmistakably worldly term that you (and many others, granted) are trying to redefine in a way that makes it conform to the true Gospel…If someone comes to me, and divulges that they are short on the rent this month, or don't have enough groceries, or whatever, and I am able to help that person out with some money, or food, or whatever I may have, am I "making a stand for "justice"??? Or am I simply loving them as a friend?"Justice" is not achieved or promoted or furthered when we share material things. Are we called to share material things? Of course! But this is not "justice"… We are called to love, because He first loved us. We are called to give because He gave us everything, when we really deserved nothing!So when WE give to others, we are reflecting what we have already received, we are NOT executing "justice" in the world, (as though we deserve anything). THAT is the core of the distinction, and that is why "social justice" is not a biblical concept… D

  13. Jared says:

    You really think that the term "social justice" is primarily an orthodox Christian term that has been usurped by liberal theologians?No, I think it is a neutral term with biblical justification that has been usurped by liberal theologians. To paraphrase Bono, it is the song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles; we're stealing it back.unmistakably worldly termShow me from Scripture how "doing justice" in society, which the Bible actually commands we do, is actually unbiblical.trying to redefine in a way that makes it conform to the true GospelThere are a lot worse things than trying to conform to the gospel. I might even say that conforming social justice to the Lordship of Christ is a great way to take every thought captive to his obedience.If someone comes to me, and divulges that they are short on the rent this month, or don't have enough groceries, or whatever, and I am able to help that person out with some money, or food, or whatever I may have, am I "making a stand for "justice"??? Or am I simply loving them as a friend?It's not about "making a stand for justice." It is loving a friend (or neighbor, assuming you have no prior relationship with them) because God loved you in Christ. He reached out to you and gave himself up for you when you were a stranger. So to love and help strangers can be a witness to his first loving us.When the Bible calls us to "do justice" it is calling us to be witnesses to the fact that the LORD is God and that Christ is the King, and the world and its ways are not. The justice God did on our behalf was in substituting his Son for our guilt. So justice for others is loving them despite their inabilities or their unworthiness.I would actually suggest that your definition of justice is more worldly than mine. In your previous comment, you write:we are commanded to "do justice", but that is a command to our own, personal life and decisionsThis doesn't even make sense. It makes no sense given the texts of Jeremiah 22:3 and Micah 6:8, which are clearly about how we related to others, and it makes no sense of the many other texts (just as one example, God loving fair balances in the book of Proverbs) in the Bible about doing justice.In this latest comment, you write:So when WE give to others, we are reflecting what we have already received, we are NOT executing "justice" in the world, (as though we deserve anything). THAT is the core of the distinction, and that is why "social justice" is not a biblical concept…Your understanding of social justice is wrong. Not only is it biblical, but the Bible tells us what it is.If you believe Jesus is Lord over society, you must believe in social justice of some kind. And unless you believe Christians are to be "out" of the world (as opposed to in and not of), you have to acknowledge that the church must witness to Christ's Lordship over culture.You are right that we don't execute justice as if we deserve things. We execute justice even though we don't. That's what God calls "grace." Grace is what makes the cross both justice for sin and forgiveness for it. And grace is what makes my love for my neighbor both justice to Christ's Lordship and mercy to his need.

  14. Like a Mustard Seed says:

    "If you believe Jesus is Lord over society, you must believe in social justice of some kind. And unless you believe Christians are to be "out" of the world (as opposed to in and not of), you have to acknowledge that the church must witness to Christ's Lordship over culture."I believe this underlines the crux of our disagreement…That's exactly it, no, I do not believe Jesus is lord over "society". He is not Lord over any earthly culture either! Being "in the world, but not of the world" does not mean we are called to try and transform society in systemic ways, to try and bring the World into alignment with the Kingdom of God. This kind of goal is what lies at the heart of the social gospel movement… (which is why I am confused that you oppose the social gospel, yet still believe that Jesus is "Lord over culture/society"?)I'm afraid it's not really possible to actually live "out" of this world (unless you were to try and go live in a cave somewhere, but I'm not…) But to be "in the world, but not of the world" does not mean we're to try engage is some type of culture war. If we really are to take seriously this idea that we are "not of this world", then what does that mean???That means that it is pointless for us to try and address things like "inequality", "suffering", "ethics, "poverty" on the broader societal level. There is no way to even have a real conversation with other people about these things, if they do not understand the gospel first! So in essence, there can only be talk of "social justice" within the Body of Christ itself, to talk about it outside of the Body is pointless. The "world has not yet been made subject to Him"…To believe in this concept of Jesus being "Lord over culture", is to somehow imagine that Jesus can be "Lord" over broad swaths of people, (even if only on some generic level), while He is not the actual Lord of their hearts. This kind of dualistic understanding of Lordship is found absolutely nowhere in the Bible. The early church made absolutely zero effort to "redeem" the surrounding pagan, Roman culture of their day. They reached out to people, many of who happened to be pagan Romans… (see the difference?) They did not seek to testify to Christ being "Lord over Roman society". The Bible tells us that Christ is indeed King over all creation, but at the same time, it tells us that what we call "society" (i.e. the kingdoms, cultures and governments of this World) are the domain of someone else… We can't have our cake and eat it to, we can't claim that Jesus is Lord of both the Bride, and the World. If that were really true, then praise God, we'd be in heaven already….D

  15. Jared says:

    no, I do not believe Jesus is lord over "society". He is not Lord over any earthly culture either!Oh wow. Well, okay, yes, this is a fundamental disagreement that derails our dialogue.I believe there is no square inch of the universe over which Christ does not say "Mine!" (as Kuyper so aptly says) and that the Bible affirms this. See Paul's doxologies for some examples. Or Habakkuk's prophecy.If we really are to take seriously this idea that we are "not of this world", then what does that mean???It means not living according to the patterns of the fallen world or in the sinful patterns of our flesh. It means seeing the Sermon on the Mount, which by the way begins with a great declaration of the gospel's impact on the social fabric in the Beatitudes, as the blueprint for being "in the world but not of it."To believe in this concept of Jesus being "Lord over culture", is to somehow imagine that Jesus can be "Lord" over broad swaths of people, (even if only on some generic level), while He is not the actual Lord of their hearts.No, it means to say that he is sovereign over all, that all will be put in subjection to him, whether things on earth or in heaven or under the earth. It means Jesus is Lord over all creation, even fallen creatures. This kind of dualistic understanding of Lordship is found absolutely nowhere in the Bible.Actually, you are the one positing dualism here, suggesting Jesus is Lord over some things but not others. As if Satan is sovereign? Or we ourselves?To say Jesus is the Lord of all creation, which he is in the process of restoring, is not the same thing as saying everyone worships him as Lord. It is to say that it is not my worship that makes Christ Lord. It is my worship that acknowledges he is Lord. But whether i acknowledge him or not, he is still Lord over me, to do with what he wants, and in fact, if I do not exercise saving faith, he will sovereignly consign me to eternal condemnation.This is everywhere in the Bible — again, see Paul's gospel declarations in the intros to most of his letters just for basic examples. I suggest you are not as familiar with the Bible as you claim to be; or at least I would recommend you cite some Bible in your answers.So in essence, there can only be talk of "social justice" within the Body of Christ itself, to talk about it outside of the Body is pointless. The "world has not yet been made subject to Him"…Who do you think I'm talking to? This is a Christian site written primarily for Christians.If you want to argue that "do justice" means something privatized or something not to be exercised among all people, the burden of proof is on you. And you have yet to cite a Scriptural example defending such a claim.The early church made absolutely zero effort to "redeem" the surrounding pagan, Roman culture of their day. They reached out to people, many of who happened to be pagan Romans… (see the difference?)Of course they were seeking to redeem the culture! They did this by being salt and light and a "city" on a hill. Why would the silversmiths in Ephesus riot if there were no cultural ramifications for the witness of the church?They did not seek to testify to Christ being "Lord over Roman society". Oh my goodness, this is profoundly wrong. To simply say "Jesus is Lord" in that culture was to emphatically say Caesar is not! To live the Sermon on the Mount was to testify that Jesus was Lord over culture. Even the word "gospel" (evangel) was hijacked from the Roman reports of tidings. Everything they did in Christian witness screamed that Jesus was Lord over the world, not just their personal souls. Nobody would have persecuted them otherwise.(continued in next comment)

  16. Jared says:

    (continued)The Bible tells us that Christ is indeed King over all creation, but at the same time, it tells us that what we call "society" (i.e. the kingdoms, cultures and governments of this World) are the domain of someone else..Satan is the prince of the power of the air. But he really owns nothing. If you think otherwise, it is you who are the dualist.We can't have our cake and eat it to, we can't claim that Jesus is Lord of both the Bride, and the World.It's all God's, even the sinners. Even the devil, as Luther says, is the Lord's devil. I'm saying Jesus owns the whole cake and the mouth that eats it.If you disagree with this, our discussion is probably over; indeed, it's a non-starter. I urge you to actually seek the Scriptures and see God's sovereignty and Christ's Lordship in the fullness they are presented.And perhaps to read some theology of Christ's Lordship.

  17. Randi Jo :) says:

    great entry

  18. Anonymous says:

    At this point I think I am being grossly misunderstood, and for that, I apologize…I am in no way challenging the sovereignty of God. I was in no way suggesting that Satan is at all powerful enough to even try and rival God. I am not a dualist. (and when I used that term originally, I didn't mean it in the classical theological sense, but more in a generic way…) What I am trying to convey, is the idea (which I find in the Bible), is that in this time, as we wait for the return of Christ and the final Judgement, the World "belongs" to the Evil One. Not because Satan has taken it by force, but because God has allowed this! (sheesh, I honestly didn't think this was such a radical concept…) We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. [1 John 5:19]Yes, God is creator and has power over EVERYTHING, including the devil and his demons, BUT, they have been allowed by the creator to lead men and women astray until the Day of Judgement arrives. (do you disagree with this?) Because, if we take the fact that Christ is Lord over everything to mean that Satan has absolutely no real sway over the World, then what would that mean? It would then mean that "Satan" is just an empty word, with no real point (and thus there would be no reason for the Bible to even mention him at all). The way you talk about "Lordship" makes it sound like just because God is sovereign, then everything in the universe is of God… What kind of God do we worship? Is He a God who imposes His Lordship over everyone? Does He force people into His Kingdom? Yes, God has the ability to force everyone to acknowledge His Lordship, but does He choose to do it that way? Or does He instead desire that men and women repent, and come to Him with a grateful heart? (of course, one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess…) In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. [Hebrews 2:8-9]I also fail to see how your reference to the events in Acts 19 represents an attempt by Paul to "redeem the culture"… Verse 26 says:And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all."So what was Paul doing? He was simply preaching the gospel, declaring to people that idol worship was the worship of false gods, and that there is only one true God. But did that constitute an attempt by Paul to change the way the overall society behaved? Was Paul embarking on a campaign to get people to simply stop their cultural habit of buying idols? Or was he preaching the gospel, and when a large enough portion of the population believed the gospel (making individual decisions to stop worshipping idols), did that consequently start making a dent in the idol-maker's profits? The point being, that the aim was first and foremost to preach the gospel and see people give their hearts to God, and only because there was such a massive response to Paul's preaching, did it make such an impact on what might be called a "cultural level"… And isn't what we see throughout the N.T.? The apostles going everywhere, preaching the gospel? (Acts 8:4, Acts 8:12, Acts 8:25, Acts 8:40, Acts 9:20, Acts 10:42, Acts 14:7, Acts 14:25, Acts 15:35, Acts 16:10, Acts 17:13, Acts 17:18, Acts 18:5, Acts 26:20, Acts 28:31, Romans 1:15, 1 Corinthians 1:17, 1 Corinthians 1:21-23, 1 Corinthians 15:2, 2 Corinthians 1:19, Galatians 2:7, 1 Thessalonians 2:9, etc., etc…)

  19. Anonymous says:

    (continued) And yes, in many instances, the preaching and acceptance of the gospel led to what could be categorized as "cultural shifts" in many, many places. This isn't surprising, because isn't that what we'd expect, when a city that was once entirely populated by idol-worshipping pagans slowly gained a larger and larger amount of people who had surrendered themselves to Christ? But we must remember that it was those "individually changed souls" who when put together, created that shift. Any attempt to effect such a shift, without it happening on a person by person basis first, can only hope to make superficial changes, which often times only obscure the true gospel, rather than promote it…You said, "To simply say "Jesus is Lord" in that culture was to emphatically say Caesar is not! To live the Sermon on the Mount was to testify that Jesus was Lord over culture. Even the word "gospel" (evangel) was hijacked from the Roman reports of tidings. Everything they did in Christian witness screamed that Jesus was Lord over the world, not just their personal souls. Nobody would have persecuted them otherwise.Yes, when the Christians in the early church said, "Jesus is Lord", they most certainly did mean that Caeser was not! And granted, when you live in a society that has political leader who also sees themself as a deity, making a statement that denies Caeser's godhood is also a statement that unavoidably has political ramifications too. When politics and paganism are so intertwined, it's pretty much unavoidable. However, would you be willing to assert that when the Christians declared "Jesus is Lord" (and thus Caeser is not), that their desire was for the entire Roman Empire to be forced to acknowledge that Jesus is the King, in the same way that roman citizens had been forced to acknowledge Caeser??? Were the apostles preaching a "two-tiered" gospel, one that had two levels of trying to reach people, where the first level was trying to see people get Saved, and a second level, where if people didn't believe in Jesus, then at least they could stop worshipping idols, or being mean to people, or be more generous citizens, etc.? Were they seeking to establish any measure of "cultural Christianity"…?I would argue fully that the answer to that question is NO.Is Jesus Lord? Absolutely! Does He own everything? Of course! But to say that Jesus is currently Lord over "society", is to pretty much rob that word of all of it's true meaning. "Society" is the collective actions, beliefs, values of a given group of people. But you can't bring about spiritual change from the "top down". You can't "redeem a society", in any other way than through the redemption of individual men and women. And the gospel is ALL ABOUT people surrenduring to christ's Lordship, because that is the way God actually desires it! He doesn't want lip service followers. He doesn't want people who grudgingly acknowledge His existence. He doesn't want people who think that following Christ is just another blueprint for creating some kind of political utopia on Earth (because it's not…) There are plenty of people in the world today, who think that the Sermon on the Mount has lots of lovely ideas in it. They are perfectly happy to take many of the things that Jesus said, and approve of them as good principles for humans to live by. Unfortunately, if those teachings of Jesus are not combined with faith in Him, and His sacrifice, then their positive reception of the Sermon on the Mount is completely useless…

  20. Anonymous says:

    (continued again) "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. [1 Corinthians 15:13-19] Yes, God owns everything, and has power over everything, but He is also currently allowing the World to continue on in it's rebellion (under the deluding influence of the Enemy), until the Day of the Lord comes. THEN all things WILL be made subject to Him. But until then, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." [2 Peter 3:9]So at this point, I would put the burden of proof on you… Show me one place in the Bible where anyone, either in the Old Testament or the New, who believed in God was seeking to "redeem a culture" in a way that circumvented the requirement of people to individually put real faith in the real God. (Acts 19 is in no way an example of what you are describing…) And yes, of course the early Christians used Greek and Roman terms and concepts to communicate the Truth about Jesus, why wouldn't they? (wouldn't have made much sense if they used Chinese terms and concepts, would it…?) You and I probably speak to Americans using lots of American words and concepts, but that certainly doesn't mean that we're trying to "redeem American culture"… (at least I'm not, I want to see individual Americans put faith in Jesus…)Anyhow, this is ridiculously long, but I felt like some in-depth clarifications needed to be made on my part. I am not challenging God's sovereignty in any way, I am simply saying that there is no such thing as a "Christian culture", or a "redeemed culture". There are only redeemed people. Culture is nothing more than the actions and beliefs of large groups of people. So naturally, if large numbers of people surrendered themselves to Christ, then we would absolutely expect to see a change in overall behavior. The problems come when Christians start working to try and bring about those behavioral changes, without the need for any spiritual rebirth to take place first. Unfortunately, this is exactly the kind of mindset behind the term "social justice". If anyone does any research into the history of the term "social justice", they will find that it is a term that is almost impossible to discuss outside of it's relation to some form of social contract theory. In essence, it inevitably involves the use of governmental action to protect basic human "rights". It deals with questions of the equal distribution of wealth, benefits, and needs. It addresses the question of how to make things "fair" in the earthly, physical sense. So, if we as Christians are trying to see the lives of people "changed" through anything other than the gospel of Jesus' death and resurrection, if we are pinning our hopes on changes in government policy, or an improved minimum wage, or improved legislation, or whatever, then we are trusting in something other than Christ our Lord. Jesus came to earth, died on the cross and rose again, THAT is how He set about to change the world. I have yet to encounter any culture on Earth where it could be decisively said,"This culture believes in Jesus"! Have you..?

  21. Jared says:

    We are now far afield from where we started. You're asking me to defend the notion of "redeeming culture," which is something you invented for me to believe in. I am saying Christ is Lord over the universe now, and your fine-tuning your previous statements to say that God allows Satan to control certain parts only proves my point. Satan is subject to God's sovereignty.Whatever the devil "controls" he controls under the Lord's control.This relates to social justice b/c when we live according to the pattern of the Sermon on the Mount, and the other commands of Christ in relating to our neighbors, we testify that Christ is Lord, and Satan is not.That some don't (and never will) believe in Christ does not mean he isn't Lord over them. His justice in consigning the unrepentant to condemnation proves what they denied.Since you're now arguing against things I never stated and can't seem to grasp my core point(s), I'm calling this one a vain disputation. In any event, I don't have the time or interest in trying to convince you any more.

  22. A. Amos Love says:

    Hmmm? Social Justice? Really enjoyed the conversation. Both have put a lot of thought, and respect, into the comments. Both have caused me to think a little. Thanks.Anonymous – I might be wrong but – you sound like you're NO longer part of "Today's Religious System."In my experience…This too shall pass…In my experience… Seems "Social Justice" could be just – another "Distraction," another "Movement," another "Nice" thing, for "Today's Religious system," "the church of man" to focus on for awhile. (As they "Help God" build "His Church" and change the world.) Oy Vey!!!They'll get over it. They'll get worn out. Then the next "New Movement" will come along and we're off to the races again. I mean – the new leaders, the new books, the new conferences.Everybody – going everyplace – accept to Jesus.We enter into "His Rest" when we cease from our own works. Yes?Tried following man and his/my ideas. Ouch :-(My people have been lost sheep,their shepherds have caused them to go astray…Jer 50:6Jesus said, My sheep "Hear My Voice" and follow me.Jesus – I've returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul – Jesus.

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Jared C. Wilson


Jared C. Wilson is the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont. You can follow him on Twitter.

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