Thursday, April 3, 2014

Justice and Mercy as Kingdom Concerns

The past two centuries have seen the burst of several para-church organizations thrusting to the frontline for the cause of justice and mercy. They are para-church in the sense of their not being subject to a local church or any denominational body as such. However, they are not para-church in connection to the Church Universal. They are instances of Christians trans-denominationally and trans-geographically coming together to voice, witness, and act out the concerns of God’s Kingdom. In many cases, there may not even be an organization as traditionally known; for instance, Christians can voice concerns through email or social media by just forwarding or commenting on concerns.

Now, it must be understood that the mission of the Church is not about proselytizing, but about evangelizing and evangelizing simply means to bear witness of the Gospel to the ends of the earth, so that those who believe can believe so in their heart and be transformed into the likeness of Christ, being transferred from darkness into the light of God's Kingdom. The Gospel is not a simple paste of feel-good theology. The Gospel involves the essential concepts of righteousness, truth, justice, mercy, compassion, and love. These concepts are concrete and part of everyday human existence. We experience law-suits, angry altercations for justice, broken hearts, tears filled eyes, and opportunities to make a difference everyday. We hear stories that deal with these concepts all the time. The Gospel of Jesus Christ cuts the mystery of these concepts wide open to the center to the shame and dismay of sinful humanity; the Spirit through the Gospel convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

A preaching of the Gospel that ignores the cause of justice and mercy is pseudo-preaching, nothing else. A preacher of mercy who shuns from showing mercy is a hypocrite. The virtues form the core and essence of the proclamation. “Love your neighbor as yourself” precedes “Preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth,” in the same way that obedience is better than sacrifice. Jesus made it clear through the Parable of the Good Samaritan that ministering to the wounded man by the roadside was more acceptable before God than burning incense in the temple. James indicates to us that a man who gives food and clothing to the hungry and naked is better than the man who prays a prayer of blessing for them but gives nothing to practically help. In fact, it is James who tells us that pure religion is about caring for the widows and the orphans.

However, action in itself is not a witness unless it is coupled with cogent proclamation. The good works of Jesus (to heal, to feed, and to deliver people) were testimonies in action of the testimony in word that He proclaimed. Action and proclamation cannot be separated. Thus, any movement for justice and mercy that doesn’t take the Cross of Jesus seriously has gone astray.

In conclusion then, evangelization cannot be separated from the Spirit’s work of convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. This includes raising the voice against sin, proclaiming in clear terms the righteousness of God, and warning the world about the judgment to come. At the same time, evangelization also cannot be separated from the Spirit’s work of acting out the positive aspects of the Gospel, God’s heart, to lift the downtrodden, release the captives, heal the brokenhearted, fight for justice to widows and orphans, and preach the Gospel to the poor. Justice and mercy form the core essentials of what the Gospel is all about and why humanity can only be saved through faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Ref:
Luke 4:18; James 1:27; James 2:15-17; Luke 10:31-34; 1Cor.1:17; John 16:8

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