This is part two of a post I started earlier. I would suggest reading Part 1 here before you read this. As I left this speech at Xavier last night, something was really bothering me. While the crowd ate everything up, I had indigestion.
Jim Wallis brought home his thoughts on Christian political action with a phrase he repeated throughout his talk. It sounded like a profound statement, so much so that I wrote it down. After talking briefly about Martin Luther King Jr, he asserted: "Pulpits are supposed to shake nations." I liked the sound of that. Of course I do, I'm a preacher. I get up in the pulpit every week, so I like to think that what I'm doing is worthwhile. But he meant it differently than I understood it.
Wallis intended that Christians need to be active about changing the injustices in this world. He was passionately inspiring the Christian crowd to step out and get involved in our country's political process. He stated we need to speak up for those who have no voice, citing how Christians did so in the past with the issues of slavery, women's suffrage, and civil rights. Wallis argued that we need to continue to spawn new movements to solve our nation's and world's problems.
While this sounds attractive, I think it falls short of what God would want from His followers. Sure, waving the social justice banner feels good, but it is not the original intention that Christ has for His Church. No matter how embarrassed some people get about it, the number one mission of the church is proselytization. The final directive Jesus gave on earth was to tell people about Him and God's way. Perhaps this is why we Christians are struggling to be effective in areas of social justice: because we've misplaced our priorities. And while I'm on a roll, the major flaw of this way of thinking is exposed here: a lack of faith in the church of Jesus Christ. We are told in the New Testament that the church is the bride of Christ.
Maybe the world isn't a better place because we [the church] aren't a good bride. Maybe we're trying too hard to shake the world with our pulpits. Perhaps we need to worry more about shaking the people in the pews and sending them out, empowered by the gospel, to shake the world.
People like Wallis like to point out that Jesus' ministry was to hang out with the poor, the leprous, and prostitutes. But that wasn't the main point of his ministry. Yes, He came to change the world, but not by enacting social change. He came that people might have life in Him. And almost all of those people of ill-repute had one thing in common: they were Jewish. They already had faith [some stronger than others] in God. Summing up the work of Jesus on earth with His social action marginalizes His life and makes Him no better than Ghandi- someone to be admired as opposed to a Savior.
And it must be noted that not once, throughout the entire evening, did Wallis use Scripture to support this mandate for social justice. Yes, he cited the words of Jesus in Matthew 25, "Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me" that phrase is no better than "judge not lest ye be judged yourself" when taken by itself. Without a Biblical mandate, I can't buy into it. You might as well be telling me Christians need to stop wearing shorts and t-shirts. This movement for Christian social change was born thirty-plus years ago from hippies who loved both social justice and Jesus. The result was people like Wallis and Campolo who gain quite a following. And I'm fine that these people are choosing to make this their life's work, but they need to be very careful when they say that this is what God wants from His people. Scripture doesn't support it.
As I find myself continually writing in my blog, please don't misinterpret what I wrote here. I agree to disagree on this issue. I could be wrong, but I'm confident in what Scripture teaches on this issue.
Of course we should help those in need. I'm living in the midst of this now as we started Echo in an economically diverse area. But as much as we should care about the physical needs of people, churches need to care more about people's spiritual conditions. It's definitely a balancing act.
My take: less politics, more Jesus.