As we struggle to deal with the murder of George Floyd and the history of discrimination and police brutality, specifically against blacks, there seems to be a loud, and compelling call from evangelicals to look to the gospel because it is the gospel of Christ being proclaimed that ultimately changes lives. I believe that; in fact, I am convinced of that, but does that mean that as individuals we should not be concerned with social issues?
Will a person who is struggling to find food for himself and family, really hear the gospel? Will a person who has no shelter from the heat, hear the message of the gospel? Do you suppose, that after having seen how Jesus ministered to so many, performing good works of healing, feeding, casting out demons, had a part in what James, Jesus’ brother says here:
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2:14-17 ESV
I wrote Almost Became A Republican, a few years ago, in which I stated that I am Pro-Life, but that my position on pro-life was not limited to the protection of the unborn, as I am definitely opposed to abortion, but:
I am also Pro-Life for those living among us that are poor, and/or disenfranchised by policies and systems that tend to leave them out, or not take them into account because they are invisible to the policymakers.
When I read my Bible, I don’t necessarily see distinctions. All through the Bible, God was concerned about justice, and the poor being oppressed. Tears were shed, and many prayers went up for the treatment of God’s people. God gave them laws in how to care for all, including strangers, when they did inherit their land.
God used Moses to free his people from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. He used Esther to deliver the Jews from Haman’s evil conspiracy to kill them. And of course, we have Jesus, who not only ministered to the individual needs of many but also sent out his disciples to do the same as they preached that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. (Matthew 10:1-14) They did both.
When a young lawyer asked Jesus how could he inherit eternal life. Jesus asked him how did he read the law? The young lawyer replied:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27
Jesus told him to just do that and he will live, but the lawyer wanted specifics. He asked who is my neighbor? So Jesus tells a parable which most of us are probably familiar, but I am going to share it anyway.
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more your spend, I will repay you when I come back. 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You go, and do likewise.'” Luke 10:30-37 ESV
The Good Samaritan did not turn away to not get involved, but had compassion on the man, and bound up his wounds and gave him a place to stay. The religious ones crossed the road to not be bothered. They neither preached the gospel nor bind up his wounds. I believe Jesus used this parable to teach us individually what loving our neighbor may look like.
So, the more I tell myself, don’t get distracted keep your focus on the Christ who saves for only he can change the hearts of men, I later have thoughts that I should care, that I can’t stop caring. I believe that I can do both.
It doesn’t mean that I must go out to march with the protesters; though some may, but it does mean that it’s okay that I feel the pain, that my heart hurts that this continues, that I fear for my son, and grandsons and other black young boys, and men who live with this struggle. For me, loving my neighbor means not being silent, but crying out to God to save us from our depravity, while supporting legislative changes that address the inequities.
“Who rises up for me against the wicked? Who stands up for me against evildoers? 17 If the LORD had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.” Psalm 94:16-17 ESV