Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Social Justice is Important

Social justice was an integral part of Jesus’ ministry. In Matthew 25:40 and 45, our Lord said, “The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine you did for me.” 45, “He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” Jesus was explaining that we are called to serve, not only our Lord, but also those brothers and sisters in need. Every time we answer the Spirit when we are nudged to offer our help to someone, we are doing this for our Lord. As well, in verse 45 He offers a rebuke to those that choose to sit on the sideline and ignore the Spirit.

Our Lord was also very welcoming and often ate with the sinners of that day. This particularly infuriated the Pharisees, who denounced Jesus. In Matthew 9:12, Mark 2:17, and Luke 5:13 our Lord explains that “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” In this manner also, our Lord calls us to reach out to those in need of healing, particularly spiritual healing. Our Lord not only healed the physically ill, He attended to their spiritual health and turned them away from sin. Any help for the physical body will be of no use to those that are dying in the Spirit. We must be able to temper our enthusiasm to answer to the needs of the physical being, while also ministering to those not on the path to salvation. We must also be careful not to place our goal of attaining social justice above the salvation of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus said in Matthew 6:1, “Be careful not to do your “acts of righteousness” in front of others, to be seen by them. If you do you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Beware of the motives behind the ambition for social justice. Do not fall into the trap of putting these desires for earthly justice over and above our desire to reach those in need of the Gospel.

The ELCA website dedicates 5 short paragraphs to their statement of beliefs, 5 short paragraphs to the Bible, and its social justice page has links to 24 separate and distinct social justice agenda items. It would seem that, while the ELCA is doing God’s work to fight for these issues, the salvation of the world is not even being given equal time. Also from the website as to “Who we are”, the first sentence is, The ELCA is a community of faith that share a passion for making positive changes in the world. That making positive changes in the world is stated before acknowledging their strong belief in God made known to them through Jesus Christ is particularly telling. How can we make positive changes in the world without striving to bring that world to God? Why is the effort to lead others to the Lord taking second place to the worldly issues of social justice?

One of the most revealing elements in this struggle to promote social justice is how the ELCA appears to revel in the celebration of its good deeds. Promoting good deeds to the world is nothing more than placing one’s self above the Lord. It is making the social justice agenda your own god and pushing our Lord to the back burner. Everything we are and have is because our Lord, in His infinite love for us, gave it to us. We are nothing without our Lord and Savior. We may feel good about ourselves with our earthly accomplishments, but our Lord knows where our hearts truly are. We must do God’s work for Him, not to make us feel good about ourselves, or we become no better than the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. We are all sinful beings and fall short of the glory of God. When we try to glorify our good works and boast to the world rather than glorify our Lord, we drive a wedge between ourselves and God.

1 comment:

  1. Don your comment "Everything we are and have is because our Lord, in His infinite love for us, gave it to us. We are nothing without our Lord and Savior" reminds me of the song "Majesty" by Martin Smith of Delirious, where he says, "Your grace has found me just as I am, empty handed, yet alive in Your hands" true, yet we often forget!

    Regarding your comment on the ELCA website:
    How sad to see that the ELCA website only has 5 short paragraphs to the Bible and SO many more for Social Justice.

    One of my morning devotions earlier this week, written by Dr W.Robert Godfrey, emphasized the authority of God's Word. He said that "many American churches are in a mess. Theologically they are indifferent, confused, or dangerously wrong. Morally they live lives indistinguishable from the world. They often have a lot of people, money and activities. But are they really churches, or have they degenerated into peculiar clubs?
    What has gone wrong? At the heart of the mess is a simple phenomenon: THE CHURCHES SEEM TO HAVE LOST A LOVE FOR AND CONFIDENCE IN THE WORD OF GOD.

    Increasingly they treat the Bible as tidbits of poetic inspiration, of pop psychology and self-help advice. Congregations where the Bible is ignored or abused are the the gravest peril.

    Churches that depart from the Word will soon find that God has departed from them!"

    Dr Godfrey asks, "what solution does the Bible teach for this sad situation? He says the short but profound answer is given by Paul in Colossians 3:16: 'Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God'.

    We need the Word to dwell in us richly so that we will know the truths that God thinks are most important and so that we will know His purposes and priorities. We need to be concerned less about 'felt-needs' and more about the real needs of lost sinners as taught in the Bible."

    I recall being stunned while attending the Greater Milw Synod meeting with Don and Pastor Jay in 2008, when they announced a new "initiative" called the "Book of Faith". They explained that in 2007, the ELCA voted to embrace an initiative called "Book of Faith" and they shared the "Book of Faith Vision Statement: That the whole church become more fluent in the first language of faith, the language of Scripture, in order that we might live into our calling as a people renewed, enlivened, empowered, and sent by the Word."

    One could question why the ELCA felt the need to establish an "initiative" to read the Bible???

    Thankfully, for those of us at Shepherd of the Hills, Pastor Jay did not need the ELCA to implement an "initiative" in 2007, in order for him to teach us that we needed to be in God's Word on a daily basis! Guided by the Holy Spirit, he began teaching us from the moment he joined us in 1999.