From the Pastor – What’s Our Part?

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Dear Church Family,

As way of reminder and as many of you are aware, the city of KC has proposed a development (Maple Corners) behind our ball field to include a 90-unit townhome development slated to start in July or August of 2017 (pending several layers of yet-to-be-approved votes, etc.).  Since August, our church has hosted 2 community meetings on this subject.

This time, for our church attenders and members in particular, we’d like to invite you on Sunday, Oct. 30 at 5 PM to discuss the question:

As Christians and a local church, what is our duty with this project? If this goes through, how do we be a biblical neighbor? How do we handle this in a God-glorifying, Gospel-centered way?

If you are able to make, I’d encourage you to do so!

As I have been preparing our time together on the 30th, I have asked:

Is it okay to talk about / evangelize / share the Gospel ever without discussing wider social justice issues?  Do we just share the Gospel and leave the rest to the world to figure out in our community?

It seems, after a brief review of Scripture, I’m concerned about believers (myself included!) who somehow conclude that the cause of “other-care” such as feeding the poor and taking care of our neighborhoods are expendable.

To be clear: The biblical Gospel is the foundation for everything we do in this life (1 Cor. 15:1-8).  It is the utmost priority to share! Christianity is about the glorious grace of God in Christ (Eph. 2:8-9). But it carries a secondary but clear message of social justice. Always.

Social justice can be a false ‘social gospel.’ Or, it can be the church loving our neighbors for God’s glory (Matt. 22:39) Religion that’s real in the sight of God includes both social justice and personal piety (James 1:27). Not either/or but both/and.

These are just short points, but here’s why I think biblical (not political or whatever else) social justice is an essential-but-not-primary part of our mission to evangelize the Gracemor, Maple Park, and Claycomo area around our church with the Gospel.

1. God doesn’t just recommend we take care of widows and orphans—He commands we do so. And not just a few times but many (See 1 Tim. 5:1-16; James 1:27, etc.).

2. In Galatians, when Paul was settling that “his” gospel was on the same page as the apostles, the apostles reminded him to truly care for the poor (Acts 6:1-7).  And Paul says is the thing he is “eager to do” (Gal. 2:10; Acts 24:17). Even with our worldwide goal to get the Gospel to different tribes, cultures, and languages, care for the poor is a continuous.

3. Caring for “the least of these” is caring for Christ, His church, and His people (Matt. 25:40).

4. A detailed study of the Old Testament and the Law reveals an amazing amount of verses not just on correct relations with the community, but also about work, about meals, about forgiveness of debt, and even about how to treat livestock. This means that there’s a righteous order God supposes His people to live within. Loving our neighbor testifies to this order.

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5. Some may ask:

Shouldn’t we just care for the Christian poor in our church? Do we have to take care of the world’s poor, too?

Two thoughts on this:

A. Isn’t it interesting that in the parable of the Good Samaritan—you know, the one with the “bad guy”—the outsider is made the hero of the story (Luke 10:25-37)? The parable tries to answer the question—“Who’s my neighbor?” This story shows a vast difference of care than most live out and engage in.

B. Remember, the purpose of Jesus was to love us even while we yet sinners (Rom. 5:8) and not Christians. We were enemies and rebels of Christ and His kingdom.  Yet, He freely and willingly offered his body for us anyway.  Is it even Gospel-centered, then, to say we will only care for those who are like us?

If we confuse evangelism with social justice we lose the most unique service Christians can offer the world (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 4:12, etc.).  For time and eternity, the riches of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all the satisfaction a sinner needs.  And we must guard against and never muddy or weaken that good news, even with works that are good.

But if, like Paul and Peter, “silver and gold have we none” (Acts 3:6) we have the God of the Gospel—which is, nonetheless, eternally precious. But if we have the “silver and gold,” so to speak, shouldn’t we give that, too? In delightful biblical irony, loving-generosity to our neighbor doesn’t show we think money is chief, but, rather, that we find money inexpensive in comparison to the treasure of proclaiming, knowing, and living for Jesus Christ.

Have a great Wednesday! And be in prayer for the 30th as we discuss our church’s biblical role to the Maple Corners project.

In Christ,

Darin