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Social Justice, God’s Kingdom & The Church’s Mission

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Today I read a tweet that got me thinking. The author of this tweet likened the social justice work (advocacy for poverty reduction) he and his colleagues were undertaking to be that of modern day prophets bringing in God’s Kingdom. The author is a great guy who loves Jesus & he is doing good things. His tweet made me think about how social justice is related God’s Kingdom and the mission of His church.

Kevin DeYoung has a heap to say about social justice, the kingdom, scripture and the church. Here’s what he said about the language of ‘bringing in God’s kingdom’: “I don’t think the talk of “building the kingdom” or our role in “ushering in the kingdom” is language that can be supported by Scripture. God already reigns, and he doesn’t need our help to get on the throne! .. We should live out the ethics of the kingdom, pray for the kingdom, and by faith we can receive the kingdom. But we do not bring about God’s reign.

Last year, in the context of discussing the mission of the church, DeYoung suggested that social justice and neighbor love were not the same as undertaking the great commission. Here’s what he said: “I want the utterly unique task of the church — making disciples of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit to the glory of God the Father — put front and center, not lost in a flurry of humanitarian good deeds or environmental concerns.

The only way the kingdom of God – the redemptive rule of God – is extended is when he brings another sinner to renounce sin and self-righteousness and bow his knee to King Jesus.

Pretty confronting gear. Lots of people didn’t like what he said.

A little later DeYoung interviewed Tim Keller about it. The context was social justice & the proclamation of the gospel as responsibilities of the church. Here’s what Keller said:

The first thing I need to tell people when they come to church is believe in Jesus, not do justice. Why? Because first, believing in Jesus meets a more radical need and second, because if they don’t believe in Jesus they won’t have that gospel … So there’s a priority there. On the other hand, for a church to not constantly disciple its people to do justice would be utterly wrong, because it is an important part of God’s will. I’m calling for an asymmetrical balance here. It seems to me that some churches try to load in doing justice as if it is equally important as believing in Jesus, but others, in fear of falling into the social gospel, do not preach or disciple their people to do justice at all. Both are wrong. A Biblical church should be highly evangelistic yet known for its commitment to the poor of the city.

I’m glad the author of this inspirational tweet is doing this work – glad in a way that’s far more than token. I’m glad that Christians I know are involved in this work. I’m glad that I get encouraged to be involved too. It’s good work, and it needs to be done. Especially by Christians. But with respect to the church’s mission, these guys are highlighting an asymmetry between social justice and the work of the great commission, and I think they’re right – “priorities ought to take, well, priority“.

Check this out: What Is the Mission of the Church? DeYoung, Kelly, Gilbert (and Keller)

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September 21st, 2011 at 8:34 pm

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