Pastoral thoughts from a United Methodist in Western Kentucky (USA)
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
The Social Gospel of Christ – and Our Place In It
The Gospel of Christ knows no religion but social, no holiness but social holiness…You cannot be holy except as you are engaged in making the world a better place. You do not become holy by keeping yourself pure and clean from the world but by plunging into ministry on behalf of the world's hurting ones.– John Wesley, 1739
Our world is guilty of a lot of perversions, but in my opinion one of the worst today is the emphasis we have placed upon personal evangelism with little regard for any social emphasis. Salvation is far more than personal and individual; it is communal and corporate. Jesus didn’t tell us to do what he said, be saved, and keep it to yourself. Nor did he say “It’s all about you and me.” He told the disciples (plural), “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." The Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them… and teaching them…”
That’s what Wesley meant by social religion – it’s not just individualistic, and it’s not just personal; it’s a both/and, not an either/or: “You do not become holy by keeping yourself pure and clean from the world.” It’s quite obvious that Wesley believed as Christ did that we are supposed to be in the world while not becoming of the world.
Last Wednesday night, one of our church members made a profound statement: I asked the question, “What is our answer to the question, ‘Are you saved?’” Without expecting it, the answer that came out? “I’m working on it!” It was a great answer.
In fact, isn’t it the perfect answer?! Salvation is personal AND social, if Jesus is Lord of all. Can we serve Jesus if we don’t show love and concern to others? Christianity HAS to be a social religion; if it’s not we’re not practicing Christianity, and our salvation may be in question. In fact, it moves us to the next obvious question: when is our salvation complete?
If we love God with our whole hearts, and we love our neighbors as ourselves, that will mean we are involved and engaged in the culture we live in – always and forever. It means we sponsor (and participate in) blood drives at our church, and a thousand other things we do or haven’t even thought about. By these and so many other ways we witness for Christ. It means that all of the acts of piety and holiness that John Wesley spoke of are ESSENTIAL for us in working out our salvation. “Faith without works is dead,” (James 2.17).