Continuing the interview with Kathi Macias, author of the new book Beyond Me: Living a You-First Life in a Me-First World (New Hope, 2008):
In chapter 3, “Do Unto Others,” you wrote: “Does Jesus’s command to ‘go and do likewise,’ even among those who have no respect for us or our faith, who may even be openly hostile toward us, rock a few of our boats as well? ...Because that means we have to open our hearts and our hands, even to those who may despise us—the gay activist, the abortionist, the career criminal—and give of ourselves, regardless of the cost. It means it’s not enough to protest against abortion; we need to work for the preservation of life, whether that includes giving of our finances and time to support the local crisis pregnancy center or taking a pregnant woman into our home and possibly even helping to raise her child. It means it’s not enough to condemn the sin of homosexuality in an effort to preserve the sanctity of marriage; we must exhibit unconditional love (not approval) to those trapped in that destructive lifestyle, even if they insult us and refuse our love” (pgs. 66, 67).
You say you are not preaching a “social gospel.” Could you please explain what a “social gospel” is and then tell us what you’re saying that’s different?
KM: Thanks for bringing this up, as it is a crucial distinction. A social gospel believes/preaches that compassion and kindness and acts of benevolence can, in and of themselves, solve social problems—and, if there is life after death, earn the doer of those good deeds some sort of eternal reward. It also intimates that any sort of stand for absolute truth is intolerant and, therefore, not kind or benevolent. The gospel of Jesus Christ—the true gospel—is in direct contrast to that sort of teaching.
The true gospel according to the Scriptures states emphatically that there is indeed absolute truth, and that truth is what God says it is, not what society reasons it should be. The true gospel also states that there is only one way to God the Father, and that is through accepting the blood atonement of His only Son, Jesus Christ. When a person has truly accepted that blood atonement as his own and been born again, then out of gratitude to God he will desire to serve others through acts of kindness and benevolence, but he will never make the mistake of thinking his kind acts are earning him an entrance into heaven.
I’ve heard the term “social justice” a lot in the church over the last couple of years. Do you have an idea of what this means?
KM: I’m not an expert by any means, but I will say this: On the surface it sounds like an excellent concept and one that Christians should be at the forefront of promoting. The problem is that the concept of social justice, though positive in that it implies the need for treating others with dignity and respect, compassion and equality, it also implies that justice can be achieved on this sin-filled planet and meted out by humans hands and by using human means. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Though as Christians I believe we should be the first to show compassion and mercy to those in need and to willingly give out of our own means to help the poor whenever possible, I believe we should do that primarily through our churches and definitely in accordance with scriptural guidelines, remembering that the Bible says that if we don’t work, we don’t eat! The scriptural guideline of helping the poor was never meant to enable laziness or unnecessary dependence on others. The integrity of God’s Word must never be compromised to achieve a manmade perception of justice. For that reason, I believe the term “social justice” could easily become a dangerous tool of the enemy to draw us away from our primary purpose as God’s people to proclaim God’s absolute truth and to call others to repentance and restoration. True social justice can only be achieved within the parameters of scriptural truth and God’s message of Good News to a lost world. If certain aspects of what some consider social justice are not achieved on this earth, we shouldn’t be surprised. Real equity will only be meted out in eternity.