Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bankrupt the Idol-Makers

On the often debated issue between theological conservatives and liberals over social justice, Jared Wilson has this to say:
In Acts, we see the personal gospel taking hold of individuals, which grew the counter-culture of the church, which resulted in all sorts of cultural and social fallout, from care of the poor to the bankruptcy of idol-makers.
I like the term "social fallout."  It implies that what Jesus did was like dropping a nuclear bomb on the world.  It's an apt metaphor. The Gospel of personal salvation is simply too explosive not to transform a social order.  How the Gospel of Christ for personal salvation became considered separate from James' "religion that is pure and undefiled before God" is probably a sadder story than I care to investigate right now.   But Jared does a pretty great job(though brief, as a foretaste of his next book) at not losing either end of the deal.

If it's good news that Christ atoned for my sin personally so that eternal union with him could be mine, than it must be good news that he expects the Jesus community to "remember the poor."  This is not medicine that's good for you but tastes bad or something.  This is what people who have passed from death to life do.  As a matter of deep desire and conviction.  And in the process of valuing the people around us more than whatever the newest $20-a-week fad, the idol-makers go bankrupt (that includes the Christian music industry, btw).

The way I understand it, the Gospel of personal salvation continues to be a Gospel of personal salvation day to day, forever.  The question to us is, do we still think it's Good News, or have we found better news since then in the promise of having control over our lives and being well-respected by our in-laws?  If Christ is as valuable as the Gospel suggests he is, then it's not only possible to "sell everything you have and give it to the poor," it might even be fun.  If, that is, we really think it's good news.

But before we go joining a church or creating a ministry designed to give help to the homeless, do we know any homeless people as it is?  Before we introduce a new cog into the church machine to help the lowly, is the church itself made up of the lowly?  Is "mercy ministry" a way of "reaching down" to those who are implicitly understood as inferior and in need of our help, or is it horizontal "seeing and reaching towards" people who, in the shadow of the Cross, look much like we do?

Because if the face of Christ's suffering for us is the suffering of individuals, and because the injustice of men that crucified Christ is the macro-implication of the injustice that inflicts suffering on all human victims of sin, presently incarnated as the poor, then what we do about the suffering poor implies and displays our posture towards the suffering Christ.  And the suffering Christ will not be ignored.  An "I don't care" is outright rejection.  A "that's someone else's job" is a hard-hearted refusal to consider Christ himself worthy of our attention.  A Gospel that is witnessed as that which gets you into heaven, but does not continue to challenge (no, condemn!) man's kingdom and point to Christ's Kingdom is soon an obsolete Gospel in which personal salvation itself will cease to mean anything compelling.  I don't know how many generations. One...maybe two.  

Many of us who are saying this are fairly middle-class, white and priveliged. We went to college.  These things don't come naturally for us.  We're struggling to, at the least, allow Scripture and our own humanity to keep us uncomfortable with the way things are.

The missional movement is seeking to correct a mistake that evangelicals have been making for a century or so.  The best of the movement will remain both Gospel-centered and embody the Kingdom of God now. There's no lasting fruit produced by removing the Cross from the ministry of justice.  There's also no authentic interest in the Gospel itself (of the Kingdom or for personal salvation) if a human display of compassion for the weak does not proceed from faith.  These are not negotiable.  Both errors are compromises on the very thing that correct faith depends on.

1 comment:

Erin Hope said...

hmm.... bet those guys in acts (the ones who's society- that they depended on-was being turned upside down) weren't all too happy about it. Sometimes I wonder what exactly it means that christians are generally accepted in America, even well-liked, (depending on who you talk to)