Christians need to re-engage with their communities
In the past Christians have provided much needed services for the sick, the poor and even started probation for prisoners.
It was as the theology of the Social Gospel was developed (from the early to mid-twentieth century) that evangelical Christians were reluctant to be involved with anything that deviated from the singular proclamation of the Gospel to those who had not believed.
This approach was problematic as it left the work commenced by Christians who worked out their salvation through alleviating social injustice to be continued by people who had no concern for the faith that motivated the action in the first instance.
An example is Sir Roger Singleton, a former Chief Executive of Barnardo’s, who stated in 2007 that ‘Barnardo’s was founded by a zealous Christian evangelical. We had to reconcile the fact that we had our roots in a certain fervent brand of Christianity, with the wish to be a good employer.’
However, in more recent times, the evangelical tradition within the Church has taken its responsibility seriously to be salt and light in the world. This can be demonstrated by Christian organisations within the evangelical tradition reaching out to those in our society who, for example, have disabilities or need care (for example, Pramacare or Through the Roof). There are other organisations that are larger and have a long history (such as Tearfund, Livability) as well as those that have commenced more recently and have grown at a remarkable rate (such as Street Pastors, Foodbank, Christians Against Poverty).
Evangelical Christians have become involved again in the work of the Father who has a holistic approach to the people He created. It is imperative to preach the atoning work of Jesus as being the only way to be in relationship with God, whilst also recognising that He did not create souls apart from the body and so we should care for both.
The example that should be followed is that of Jesus who was observed as being concerned for those on the margins on society, like women and the poor, whilst emphasising that His primary objective was to reconcile mankind to Himself through the cross. To this end, there is the reminder that the ‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world’. (James 1: 27)
We are also to remember that ‘as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.’ (Galatians 6: 10) The context is that when we live by the Holy Spirit, it will be seen in our actions, such as in caring for the marginalised and those excluded from mainstream society. The passage also has a promise in the preceding verse – ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’
It is not the social gospel that should be espoused, but the real Gospel which has social implications, for the cross not only reaches vertically to God but also horizontally as we reach out to others. There are two challenges – for evangelicals to reconnect the cross with social action and for liberals to reconnect social action with the cross. The Bible shows God’s heart about how we relate to Him through the cross and to people that He created and cares about.
Posted by Amanda Hopkins
Extract from http://www.christiantoday.com
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