Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Acts of mercy and the Gospel of Jesus: The Inseparable Couplet

Scott Thomas, director of Acts29 Network, recently blogged about a sermon delivered by D. A. Carson, Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Friday September 26 at Bethlehem Baptist Church. The article mentions 5 trends in the church today. I would like to eventually cover all 5 trends, but today I would like to focus on number 4:

There is a trend in our churches to be consumed by social concern.
"In the most intriguing point of his talk, Don said that the Gospel plus caring for the poor was an inseparable couplet. He cautioned that if the gospel was merely assumed (and not clearly articulated), our passion for social justice would overshadow the gospel. While we are not intentionally exalting social concern over the gospel, people learn what we are excited about (gospel over caring for the poor). Carson warned, "Our passion must first be the gospel and not assume it to be understood." He continued, "We must be careful to keep the gospel central and not turn our responses to the gospel as the main target."

Furthermore, Carson exhorted these Christian leaders to spend our time on prayer and the ministry of the Word and allow our people to begin and maintain efforts in social concern. He said we must distinguish between what the church as church must do and what the community of believers in the church must do (I did not personally see the difference but it seemed to suggest that the pastor was exempt from exemplifying an outpouring of the gospel into the community through social efforts).

Our calling, Carson said is to do good in the city (Jer. 29), because the person has an eternal destiny and we care for them. We are all poor beggars telling other poor beggars where they can find bread. Don concluded this section by warning us not to make the issues of gospel and social concern antithetical."

I love the first sentence, "the Gospel plus caring for the poor was an inseparable couplet." It is so encouraging to think of the Gospel and caring for the poor as "inseparable couplet." The two can NEVER be separated. When we preach the Gospel, it must always be lived out, with the love of Christ touching the hurting around us. How greatly would the worlds view of Christianity be changed of the Gospel was always accompanied with the caring of the poor?

The quote about beggars telling other beggars reminded me of Jim Henderson's book a.k.a. LOST. Henderson states
"We realized that calling people who are outside the faith 'the lost' sets up an us/them dichotomy, artificially separating 'the found' from those who are hopeless in their 'lostness.' It also conveys a class system, setting up the assumed superiority of 'the found' in contrast to the sad plight of 'the lost.'Rather than one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread, the idea of 'reaching the lost' sets up an unnecessary and unhelpful obstacle."

We should remember that we need to continually preach the Gospel, and that its preaching should always be accompanied with Christian mercy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.

— Bertrand Russell