Part I: So Loving My Neighbor isn’t the Gospel?

7 Jun

So I’m jumping into a subject that I will be discussing in part at Crosswalk over the next couple weeks. Today, in Part I, I will begin by just putting my thoughts down into print. It is going to be sort of like a brain vomit. If you have ever been around someone who has just thrown up you may notice that they are feeling pretty good as a result but you are left cleaning up the mess. So this post may be creating quite the mess: I’ll feel a bit better; you might not. But relax, I’ll take some time from now until June 29th and help you clean up!

I guess my concern is the gospel (good news) of Jesus has everything to do with helping meet people’s needs. It is much more than just this but it must include this as part of what the whole gospel is. My dilemma is that many church’s claim that how we treat people physically is only meeting a temporary need and holds less of an importance than meeting people’s eternal needs. And in minimizing this we in part completely eliminate it’s necessity in what the message of Jesus is about.

Often in church circles, when we talk about getting involved with people who are poor, addicted, homeless the term that is brought up is social justice. In fact that is the word that I used. If you look at my side bar you will see that I even have a category for it. But I try not to use it anymore. I feel that when social justice is created as a category within the church it limits it to an elective. You know, one of the non-essential things that are nice to offer you once a semester. Something that you don’t expect everyone to get on board and participate in.

To be fair, I understand why some people get so up and arms when we try to make serving “the least of these” part of the gospel message. Not to long ago there was something called the social gospel. Essentially, everything miraculous in the scriptures and everything unique about Jesus (atonement, resurrection, virgin birth) was denied. The Christian faith was turned into a morality code. The plus side was that it meant that we were confronted with the teachings of Jesus and how we are to treat others. We couldn’t withdraw and just talk about how much we love Jesus. We had to love our neighbor. Yet on the flip side the relationship was lost. The scriptures lost any form of authority and with them an overarching narrative that the God who created all things good had reconciled the world through Jesus and was in the process of making all things new again.

So, many church’s in fighting these abuses and denial’s of Christ’s identity split with these church and unfortunately with their involvement with the poor. Tim Keller (who you must check out), a pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York says:

“The social gospel has poisoned the church twice.’ The first time, of course, was when the social gospel was first introduced as a (theologically) liberal agenda that minimized the preaching of the gospel. But the social gospel is poisoning us again, Keller argued, because today evangelicals are so concerned about falling into the error of the old social gospel that we do not put nearly the emphasis that the Bible places on caring for the poor.”

In our attempt to be Orthodox (having the right beliefs) we have left Orthopraxy (the right way of life) behind.

So I would say for the last three years this has been a topic that consumed me. It actually took quitting a job in full time ministry (we are all full time ministers but I was paid to be one full time for a 501c3 non-profit) for my eyes to begin to open. I actually found my job with a church to be something that gave me a very limited vision and understanding of how big the implication of Jesus’ good news actually was.

And so as I walked away from the comfort of a full-time position with stability thoughts of how we are called to love our neighbor began to grow. Much like a snow ball rolling down the hill. In the beginning the way I began to view the world was changing but not necessarily responding with my life to what I have learned. My thoughts were easily thwarted by the next thing that I “had to have” or by what other people would think of me if I began to act on some of these things that I was learning about.

However, now it is quite the snowball. I find that it is knocking down things that are in its way almost effortlessly and what is quite fun is that I’m seeing friends who are getting caught up in this giant snowball and going along for the ride!

So anyways, going to process some thoughts over the next couple weeks and probably link up some other blogs that discuss the way that we treat/view/love our neighbor.


4 Responses to “Part I: So Loving My Neighbor isn’t the Gospel?”

  1. Jamie Stavenger June 9, 2008 at 8:18 am #

    Love it, Rob. Keep the vomit coming.

  2. Blake June 19, 2010 at 8:24 am #

    hey there

    I was just wondering if you knew by chance if the stencil work of the homeless guy holding the keep your coins i want change sign was done by banksy?

  3. admin June 21, 2010 at 11:19 pm #

    I’m just about positive it’s Banksy.


  1. Part II: So Loving My Neighbor isn’t the Gospel? « Rob’s Blog - June 9, 2008

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