Just to be clear, I am not against working for societal change, helping the poor, or ministering to the sick. I am hugely for all these things. But the idea I’m toying with is that maybe these things do not constitute the mission of the church. Certainly, we love our neighbor as ourselves in obedience to Christ, which will entail different individual callings and different responses depending on the situation. We are called to do good to all people, especially to those of household of faith (Gal. 6:10). So we need no excuse to love others. Praise God for Christian doctors, teachers, and relief workers all around the world. But it seems to me the mission of the church, what God wants to accomplish on earth through us, is not the meeting of all human needs nor the transforming of all cultures, but the discipling of all nations.
To me, the issue is not whether Christians should be in favor of societal change of all type (i.e., social justice). The issue is whether or not that is the mission of the church as the church.
Interestingly, in the gospels, we see Jesus leaving certain places before all the people were healed. We see him in certain places intentionally not doing miracles of healing and restoration (Matthew 13:58). We see him in one place leaving only crumbs for the dogs, so to speak, and that only after a heart-felt appeal for mercy (Matthew 15:21-28). And then there’s the comments of Jesus about Tyre and Sidon that if he had done certain miracles there they would have repented (Matthew 11:21; Luke 10:13). How staggering is that to our theology? Jesus did not do the very thing that he knows would have brought repentance. Did he not want these people to repent?
These should be thought provoking for anyone who thinks seriously about the mission of Jesus and social justice, and the mission of the church and the gospel.
We can debate the reasons for these passages and other like them, but it seems that Jesus’ mission was not complete social justice. He left some thing unjust, for various reasons.
While that might not make you think, it does make me think …