Tuesday, February 10, 2009

JUSTICE, MERCY, FAITHFULNESS

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill, and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Matthew 23:23, 24

I grew up in a very conservative church in the ‘60s. I heard a great deal about the “mainline, liberal, social gospel” denominations and churches that were actively involved in the civil rights movement and the anti-Viet Nam war movement. These churches were bad because they were part of the World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches. They had given up the true meaning of the gospel; or at least they were associating with churches that had done so. Apparently they thought they could earn their salvation by being “do-gooders.” This was nothing less than salvation by works. Some people even whispered that these so-called Christian groups really didn’t even believe in anything other than doing good to people who were in need. They had lost the gospel.

On the other hand, we had it right. We didn’t smoke or drink. Our youth weren’t allowed to go to dances. We didn’t go to restaurants that served alcohol. We stayed away from bowling alleys because bowling alleys had several strikes against them (forgive the bowling pun): they served alcohol, they had pool tables which were used for gambling, and they were open on Sundays. We didn’t go to the movies. We only played Rook because playing cards were used for gambling. We didn't listen to godless rock 'n roll music. We boys kept our hair cut short and didn’t grow facial hair because we didn’t want to be mistaken for rebellious hippies. We dressed up for church because we should always offer God our best. Catholics weren’t Christians at all. The pope might be the anti-Christ. We didn’t date girls from those liberal denominations because they probably weren’t really Christians. As long as we stayed separate and lived holy lives our friends would be convicted of their wickedness and become Christians by osmosis. And after all this, we had the temerity to rant against liberals who thought they could be saved by their good works!

Now I’m all grown up and I have to make all these decisions on my own. I don’t want to be a Pharisee. Jesus was really angry with the Pharisees and I don’t want to end up there. So I don’t want my faith to be defined by all the things I don’t do or all the people I won’t associate with. I also don’t want to neglect the more important matters, the things God seems to be really concerned about: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. (Don’t those sound a lot like what those liberals were talking about in the ‘60s?)

Not only am I all grown up, I’m a pastor trying to help plant a church in a community that is predominantly Hispanic (75%). How shall we position ourselves in order to have the opportunity to present the gospel to many, many people here in Shafter? If we do not concern ourselves with justice, mercy, and faithfulness we may as well pack up our sound system and Bibles and go home. If we do not present the very clear and simple message of good news, that salvation comes only through the accomplished work of Jesus Christ, we might as well stop now. Jesus said it very clearly, “You should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former.” Live faithful lives while working for justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

2 Comments:

At 4:05 PM, Anonymous shaggy said...

Great post.

I was just wondering...do you still subscribe to that porn magazine Sports Illustrated?

 
At 5:28 PM, Blogger Anne of The House said...

Yes, he does.
And his current subscription is good until 2111!

His trusting wife,
Anne of the House

 

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