Reflecting on the idea of the Culture Wars – Part 4

I ended the last post by stating that my greatest hope is that we seek communion with God, Himself. Thus, I do believe in things like evangelism, mission work, serving others, etc. This brings us to the “social justice” discussion. For various reasons, this is a tricky term. Those who have been raised in evangelicalism tend to dismiss the idea of social justice as liberalism. The charge is often made that these types of advocates only want to help people for the sake of this world and disregard the message of Jesus or salvation, etc.

For me, I want to preach a Gospel that can be accepted or rejected. God has given us the free will to make accept or reject His grace. No I am not a Calvinist (further, Calvin himself didn’t seem to be a good one either). The gospel can be rejected. When I read passages like John 6, I see Jesus allowing people to leave him. Earlier in that chapter, He feeds the 5000. The next day he crosses the lake, the people follow and to paraphrase His preaching, He says, “You have come looking for the temporary things of this world (bread and more signs in this case), but I am the bread of life.” Upon hearing this, many left feeling disappointed and confused. In fact, among the few that stayed were already His disciples.

It’s always been so interesting to me that He still fed the masses the day before. Being Jesus, He must have known how this would have happened. My western mind could think, “Wow, that was inefficient.”, or “Quick say something less confusing so they stay longer!”, “Levitate or levitate them so they know that you are the Messiah. Do something so they don’t leave!” Jesus doesn’t do any of that. The Gospel can be rejected.

It’s not the Gospel if it’s manipulative. It’s not love if it’s forced or coerced. It’s not the abundant life if it’s been demanded against my will. I am sure that Jesus wanted every one of those 5000 people to stay, believe, and become His followers. But as John 6 records, many of them left and He let them. That’s the Gospel. It feeds people, helps them, even heals them, with no strings attached. That’s also justice. Being righteous because there is no other way to show that your love is truly without condition then to allow it to be rejected.

I am still not sure what Glenn Beck tired to say. I’ve listened to parts of the original broadcast. I’ve seen quotes from his follow up and for the life of me, I do not understand what He’s trying to say. At face-value, it sounds ridiculous. Yes, there are some churches that have sold Jesus short. That has been in many ways, from promoting a preacher-personality higher than Jesus, from creating a community that is exclusive or self-caring, to putting programs ahead of the mission of the Christian faith.

But the idea of social justice is a very important part of the Gospel itself. A follower of Christ cannot say to a poor hungry person “Hey, I’ll give you food if you agree to hold my beliefs.” Or to the rich and depressed person, “I would like to offer you the hope of a meaningful life of Jesus, but first, you need to agree with me.” That’s not justice.

Throughout Lent, I’ve been reading through the Gospels and every time I read through them, I think, “Wow, if I was Jesus, I would have said things so differently. I would have said more. I would have said less. I would have ….”. The other day I was reading through Matthew and there are a series of healings in chapters 6-8. it’s like Oprah, “You get a healing, and you get a healing, and you over there, you get a healing!” It used to strike me as odd that in numerous cases, Jesus heals the person but doesn’t offer a moral lesson, or a charge to love God, or an offer of repentance. He doesn’t even leave a business card. He just heals and walks away. He demonstrates love, compassion, and grace with no strings attached.

That seems like a better way to take part in the “culture war”.

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