A few days ago I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw one of my friends posted a picture of a small boy in Africa. It was clear looking at the picture that the boy was malnourished and uncared for. Underneath the picture was a caption “you just brought bibles?” This picture was meant to stir the depths of your emotions and guilt for this child. It was also posted to criticize mainstream Christianity.
There is a new movement rising in Christianity today. It proclaims love and tolerance at its core and seeks to replace the gospel with social justice. It is a toothless imitation that needs to be called out. Take the assumptions of the picture, this child would have to settle for the gospel because no food was brought.
Hold on Wes, are you saying that we shouldn’t take care of the poor? No. What I’m saying is that we never replace the advance of the gospel with a cheap imitation like social justice. Jenn and I sponsor 3 kids through Compassion International. All three of our kids Dennis (Uganda), Princess (Philippines), and Ana ( Brazil), were in desperate need of food, education and medicine. That said, their primary need was/is the gospel. We chose to give through Compassion International because it is the most gospel centered of all the organizations.
Back on topic, I believe this new form of self righteousness built around the social gospel is just a new form of an old group. This movement is a new generation of Pharisees. Remember what Jesus said about the Pharisees, they clean the outside of the cup and leave the inside dirty. They have built their righteousness around the pillars of modern America, freedom, tolerance, social justice and the advancement of oneself. These people criticize the church and change the gospel. At their heart they believe the good news is that needs are met not that Jesus radically changes the heart.
The church can only have one center. Taking care of needs both in our country and internationally is a good thing, but it is not the best. The gospel alone should be the center of the church. It is offensive, exclusive and narrow… But it alone brings men to salvation.
Look back to our picture. What if we fed the boy for the rest of his life? His greatest need still is not met. Eternally he would be far more miserable than the hunger pains he faces today. Perhaps the new picture that we could paint would be of a casket with a caption underneath “You just brought food?”
** I was asked if about my thoughts on whether Christians should do good works at all. My friend was worried that I believed in a gospel, no works approach. Here is my response…**
Let me apologize if I misspoke in my blog. As Christians we should take care of those who do not have. That said, it’s not our main focus. The push today is to make it our main focus, and sadly it’s a cheap substitute for the gospel. The disciples criticized the woman who used the alabaster ointment to clean Jesus’ feet because they reasoned the money could be given to the poor. Jesus showed that the sacrifice of his life was what they should have been focusing on. Jesus did feed five thousand out of compassion but he also sent them away hungry the next chapter because they sought him for life that came from bread, not life that came from him. Jesus had to clarify his mission because social justice, even in His day sought to steal it.
If we are honest most pictures like the one described are directed at traditional churches who get the wrap for not doing much. I can’t speak for other denominations, only Southern Baptists, but we have one of the largest disaster relief organizations counted on whenever needed. We also feed, give medicine, educate and provide vet services all over the world with the specific purpose of telling others about Jesus.
I think most people who post pictures like the one mentioned in the blog are driven by guilt. Sadly posting a picture of a starving kid on facebook does little to nothing to change that child’s life. Being a part of a church does. Giving them food is good, giving them Jesus is better.