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I taught our adult Sunday school class yesterday from the scripture in Hebrews 10:22-25:
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
And I realized the cardinal sin of our churches that are preaching this social justice/social gospel message is that they are failing to “provoke unto love and good works.” Black churches are not doing this among their people (at least the examples are not out there where we can see them.) White churches are stressing solidarity, encouraging understanding, and emphasizing the myth that we can’t speak truth to the black community regarding how to respond in this world because we never have and never will experience the prejudice they have experienced.
However, the Word of God is true no matter what your experience is. The power of God unto salvation is the answer. Christianity is being cowed into not speaking by the lying voices of the culture we live in today. And worse, Christianity is embracing the attitudes and methods of the culture to the exclusion and even demonization of the spiritual methods of God.
If the Church will not be a refuge, where in the world can anyone go to find healing and restoration?
It’s a matter of faith, doctrine, and experience.
An example of missing the point.
I heard a sermon by a local, white pastor, who commented on a recent conversation with a local black pastor. The black pastor stated, “Anytime I bring up the need to improve race relations in Jackson, I’m called an “angry black man.” The pastor went on to sermonize about Ferguson and New York and standing in solidarity with those protesting. He had to point out that he wasn’t angry in making these statements, asking the congregation to note that he was smiling as he spoke. Which was good since I was listening to a recording and couldn’t see his face.
Someone on Twitter remarked that her pastor was brave by preaching social justice during the Christmas message. But preaching social justice isn’t brave. It’s en vogue, it’s expected.
The problem with social justice is…
- Social justice has been used to impose a false morality (as opposed to a biblical morality) and will be used to limit personal freedom. It will be used in the same way, and probably more insidiously, than “civil rights” has been used to inappropriately punish people and groups based on the appearance of prejudice.
Social justice is about asserting moral superiority and civil control, directly through government or indirectly through manipulating the discourse.
Social justice isn’t the gospel. It isn’t an extension of the gospel. It’s a practice in collectivism that reduces the value of individual experience.
And since the answer isn’t being preached, social justice preachers have become the angry hell, fire, and brimstone lot of the 21st century. All judgment, no redemption. Just a vain salvation-by-works theology that only demands more and shows little to no results. No answer and no healing forthcoming, because the solution to the man-made message is man-made as well.
The problem with social justice preaching is that it is based on a theology of experience rather than a biblical theology of reconciliation through Christ.
The biblical doctrine of baptism in the Holy Spirit has all but been turned into a doctrine of the devil (wait, that has happened as well). Until we apply the entire gospel to our own lives and propagate it in others’ lives, we can’t expect change on a societal scale.
Applying the gospel will be characterized by:
Individual repentance over collective guilt. Godly sorrow causes repentance, while guilt cripples my ability to change. I should not have perpetual sorrow for being a part of a “privileged” group, nor should I allow that to dictate my actions. I only love my neighbor well in as much as I love him the way that Christ has loved me (John 15:12).
Individual obedience in baptism (taking on the name of Jesus Christ) over following our own ways. I have to fashion my live to the life of Christ. We have a big problem with projecting our preferences on God. We blaspheme in doing so. We also destroy the chance for healing and reconciliation.
Individual life in the Spirit over living for ourselves.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
I can only produce imperfect replicas of these qualities without the in-dwelling Christ (which is who the Holy Spirit is, John 14:16-20). In doing so, I “do good” to satisfy myself or put off an image of being good. This is in contradiction to doing what pleases God for the sake of pleasing Him.
Healing and reconciliation occurs one-by-one on a spiritual level, and can only be introduced by the Holy Ghost.
Regardless of skin color or experience, it is faith IN, doctrine OF, and experience WITH Jesus Christ that brings healing and reconciliation. It is individuals experiencing this over and over that causes change on a societal scale. The world dismisses it. The denominal church gets it wrong. We pay lip service to the transforming power of the gospel every day while promoting man-made ways of bringing justice to the world. Praying for a revelation and a realization of God’s transforming power in the world through His Church today.