Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Gospel Vs. Social Justice Smackdown?

Which should be the primary concern of Christians? Should our primary concern be to "proclaim the gospel" or to "promote social justice?" 

I think the answer is, "yes!" Actually, I'm not really sure why there has to be a tension between the two, like somehow we are expected to choose between them evangelism and helping others. 

It's got to be both. 

Promoting social justice (relieving suffering) is a primary concern of God's: 

"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
   And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy 

and to walk humbly with your God. " Micah 6:8

Proclaiming the gospel to relieve eternal suffering is a primary concern of God's: 

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Rom. 6:23

Or, to put it another way: Micah 6:8 and Romans 6:23 are not at odds! It's the same message: God sees sinners suffering (whether temporal suffering or eternal suffering ahead) and in the mystery of His divine will and ways, He graciously helps them! He does this both directly and through His Church. So Christians should care about helping others too.

I like John Piper's take on it - and he came up with this statement after long thought and prayer and study:
"Christians care about all human suffering, especially eternal suffering." (see his whole address at Lausanne here.)

For the Christian who is serious about these things, what this should mean is more effort at helping and evangelizing. If Heaven is a place of 'eternal rest,' shouldn't we rise to the higher calling of service and sharing the gospel and just flat out expend ourselves in the meantime? I mean the gritty stuff: 'missionally' caring for others, not chasing after health, wealth and prosperity. I mean more work and harder work as a lifestyle for the Christian.  As it turns out, its a more joyful - though tiring- way to live. I don't know about you, but for me, I'd rather collapse into heaven, worn and bruised and depleted.... and hear the words, "well done, good and faithful servant."


  1. Good post. I work for a non-profit that works to rescue trafficked women and put water wells in India and this is something that I wrestle with internally a lot. Not so much because I personally struggle with the tension, but I'm aware that there are those in the Evangelism only camp and those in the Social Justice only camp who would like nothing better than to have a hierarchy of righteous acts.

  2. Great point. I have a good friend who is currently in Sydney for his second year at Hillsong's college of ministry. They are really big on social justice AND reaching out with the Gospel. When my friend was home over Christmas, all he could talk about was Jesus and helping people. :)