Keller starts off chapter 3 with a story about a woman in one of his former churches. The deacons in his church gave the woman some money to help her with expenses and in the minds of the deacons she wastes the money. When Keller tried to defend the woman with some verses in the Old Testament about caring for the poor, one of the deacons responded, “Christians should not be concerned about poverty and social conditions, but about saving souls.”
I think this is an argument that is unfortunately heard far too often in the church these days. Many churches have a strong emphasis on evangelism (and personal morality) and very little to no emphasis on social justice. This is a clear imbalance of the message we see in the scriptures.
To be clear, we are commanded to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Our duty to evangelize and live holy lives cannot be ignored. However, neither can our call to care for the poor and oppressed. Jesus’ teaching and likewise the entirety of the Bible is filled with commandments to serve the poor. Why is it then that this seems to be ignored in many churches?
I believe Keller answers this question in the latter part of this chapter. He talks about how many American churches mirror the political landscape around them (and I would argue in my experience that this is true of may churches across the world). Some churches are more concerned with personal spiritual and moral matters and almost entirely ignore social justice. While other churches seem almost entirely concerned with social justice at the expense of moral and spiritual matters. Churches across the world too often fall into the trap of being more influenced by the world around them, rather than the Holy Spirit
I believe the answer to this problem is what Keller calls a “whole cloth” Biblical agenda. Keller writes:
“Jesus, like the Old Testament prophets, does not see two categories of morality. In Amos 2:7, we read, ‘They trample the heads of the poor; father and son go in to the same girl.’ The prophet condemns social injustice and sexual licentiousness in virtually the same breath (cf. Isaiah 5: 8ff)… The Biblical perspective sees sexual immorality and material selfishness as both flowing from self-centeredness rather than God-centeredness.”
This “whole cloth” Biblical agenda is exactly what the Christian church across the world needs today. It’s so easy to be sucked into the world around us even though we are called to “not conform to the pattern of this world” (Roman 12:2). We need to take a closer look at our words and actions and see if we are truly aligning ourselves with the Word of God rather than the words of men. The Bible is not something we can pick and choose the parts we like best from.
For those of you that have been following the World Cup as fervently as I have you may recognize the phrase from Adidas ads “all in or nothing.” We need to be all in for Christ. I encourage you to go all in with me. It may not be easy and it probably won’t make you popular, but at the end of the day our rewards in eternity are far greater than anything we could hope for on this earth.Image courtesy of Steve Day / Flickr.com