(Book begins with the Preface in the January 31 post.)
“When two truths seem to directly oppose each other, we must not question either but remember there is a third—God—who reserves to himself the right to harmonize them.”
Quote from Madame Anne S. S. Swetchine
The Bible presents many seemingly opposing ideas that we as humans find hard to weave together. So we tend to emphasize the Scriptures that support our view and ignore the ones that don’t. We often find ourselves looking for ways to discredit the scholarship, commitment or, if all else fails, the character of those on the other side. It’s time to acknowledge that we don’t have the mind of God and that we may not understand how he can balance the extremes.
For instance, contrary to the social action vs. evangelism dichotomy of my childhood, God’s Word, in both testaments, tells God’s people to be concerned with both people’s material needs and evangelism, not merely one or the other. Jesus not only gave his disciples the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18–20) but also told them that “whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matthew 25:31–46).
Getting in Step with Jesus
It’s time to stop trying to convince one another that Jesus was committed to only evangelism or only social justice. He was obviously committed to both. His years of public ministry displayed an emphasis on both. He hung out with the disenfranchised not only to meet their physical needs but also to offer them forgiveness for their sins. All people, no matter what their station in life, need the salvation provided through Jesus Christ.
Paul described to the Galatians his commission from God and from the apostles in Jerusalem. He was “entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel” (2:7) but also reminded that he “should continue to remember the poor, the very thing [he] was eager to do” (2:10). He traveled the known world to preach the Gospel, but he also urged believers to contribute to the needs of the poor and those beset by adversity. Chapters eight and nine of 2 Corinthians are devoted to the need for generosity, to meeting the physical needs of the world and to a mutual sharing of resources (8:13–15). The great evangelist believed in social action.
And so if I am to find my place in God’s purposes, I will need to care both about bringing those around me into a relationship with Jesus Christ and meeting their physical needs. I must embrace God’s sense of balance, not man’s sense of polarization. It is too easy to focus on one area and ignore the other, but that is not God’s way. If I want to follow Christ, I must seek both the salvation of people’s souls and the nourishment of their bodies.