I’m begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words ’social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!
The preceding quote was recently spoken by the conservative radio and talk show host Glenn Beck. I have tried to stay out of issues that define the political right or the left as I believe my responsibility is to be a preacher of the gospel, not a political commentator. That being said, because conservatives and their politics tend to be the prominent voices in the American church this quote deeply disturbed me due to its potential to be treated as a Biblical position that scripture repudiates repeatedly.
I have watched the American church for decades work to mobilize itself as political force in this nation. It has chosen the moral high road of the Bible using it to push agendas and candidates who support their causes. It has been my observation that as we have become more politicized our effectiveness at impacting culture through conversations pointing to Christ has diminished. Pollster George Barna has done numerous polls that show that in America today there are less people who call themselves Christian than ever before, and our church attendance on any given Sunday bears witness to these facts.
To this I do in a small way agree with Mr. Beck, in that social and economic justice have become code words for certain groups within the church to rally their troops to causes which are suspect. For some, the call to take a stand for these causes is a backhanded appeal to our government; an appeal to provide more assistance in areas that the Bible has commanded the church to be first responders…to the poor, the elderly, the widow, the homeless, and the fatherless. That being said, when a man with the influence of Mr. Beck makes a blanket statement, without the theological background to support his claims, the potential impact on those who believe that his voice is to be equated with the voices of the men and women God has placed in positions of leadership within the church, is perilous. Even more troubling is how many Christians who will rush to support the words of a talk show host yet know nothing of the words or actions of respected Christian leaders such as Jakes, Warren or Franklin.
Mr. Beck’s position on social and economic justice is rooted in the conservative political position toward these causes. From a political position what constitutes justice can be argued both ways – but from a Christian position there can be only one response to the need for justice.
Isaiah 1:16 – 17 (TMSG) 16Go home and wash up. Clean up your act. Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings so I don’t have to look at them any longer. Say no to wrong. 17Learn to do good. Work for justice. Help the down-and-out. Stand up for the homeless. Go to bat for the defenseless.
Over 120 times the word justice is found in the Bible. Isaiah so very clearly spoke to the Christian call to work for justice in chapter 1 of his book. Look at his words. Learn to do good, work for justice, help the down and out, stand up for the homeless and go to bat for the defenseless. How can these words be anything but a call for all Christians to do the exact opposite of what Mr. Beck suggests the church should do?
Do we even dare look at the life of Jesus? One of His miracles was to feed 5,000 hungry people by “taking” a young boy’s lunch. Shouldn’t those 5,000 have been self-sufficient enough to have baked their own bread and caught their own fish? Nevertheless, Jesus regularly went to those in need and offered them help. Yes his main mission was Salvation but He also understood that we live in a hard world and a Christian without compassion for those whose lives cry out for justice is just another empty voice and the Heart of God is not in them.
My fear for the Church is that we are sheep who have lost the voice of our Shepherd. Rather than listening to the Truth, we are listening to those who are leading us farther from truth not to the truth … because God’s heart is not in them. Never confuse the road of politics and culture with the way of Christ. They will always eventually head in different directions eventually. Politics are men and women attempting to solve humanity’s problems on their own. Ultimately, then you must make the choice which direction you will follow.
To subscribe to Mr. Beck’s position is to cut the heart out of Christianity. Do unto others as you want done unto yourself. Your answer may be “I don’t need anyone’s help, I’m strong and self-sufficient”. To you I can only offer the staggering statistics of Americans who are in desperate need today who never thought they would find themselves in this position. How quickly life can change.
Christianity when at its best has always shone the light on injustice. Christianity, when at its best, has not only just demanded action but has been the first into the fight. Whether over racial injustice, feeding the hungry, or caring for the poor, Christians have been acting like Christ and making a difference in this world since the beginning of recorded time. We can in no way back away from the cause of justice, social or economically, than we can deny the virgin birth. It is fundamental to our faith.
May we take this moment to sit together as brothers and sisters and ask some hard questions? Who speaks for God? Who speaks for Christians? It might be easy to follow a flame-throwing media star, whether from the right or the left, but let us make the harder choice to follow the lead of dignified men and women, whose only qualification is a heart whose purpose is to further the cause of Christ. They walk the narrow road where true justice can be found and the question of “What would Jesus do?” is answered.