A couple weeks ago I watched a video on my Facebook feed of a man making his plea on why he thought Christians, especially Pastors should never allow a topic of race and other social issues to infiltrate their pulpits. More specifically, what this person was advocating was that, in the church, Christians should solely focus their attention on preaching the Gospel. As you can imagine, I was left a bit confused while listening to this man tell his audience that the church of God is no place for social issues to be discussed because it is contrary to the gospel.
This man went on to say the following, “If you have certain convictions about racial, cultural and political issues the church is not where you should deal with this stuff at. The church is not a social club. The Pastor is not a social, racial and cultural advocate. He is a Pastor! He is supposed to protect and guide the sheep while beating the living crap out of whatever wolf wants to come near God’s people. He is not to take a stand on whether white lives matter or whether black lives matter that’s not what the church is about.”
On the surface the above statement sounds biblical, coupled with his passionate plea and concern for God’s church, I could see, although not in agreement with him, why people are quick to champion this, “Just stick with the gospel” kind of message, but the reality is, is that this mans message and argumentation is actually antithetical to the gospel message.
Does the Bible teach that Christians are to disengage themselves from the culture? Are Pastors only called to exegete the text without bridging the gap between the biblical text and the culture in which we live in? Should Christians be encouraged to examine the word of God without looking for ways to apply that same word to their surroundings, albeit social and cultural areas of life?
If the Pastors job is to teach God’s people the truth of God’s word, so that they are equip to do the work of the ministry for themselves, and in turn make disciples, then the question is, how is that being done without bridging the gap between the original audience and the current audience? How is the Pastor breaking down the text on Sunday morning without also helping his people see the multiplicity of ways the Bible speaks to every area of life, including, socially, racially and culturally charged issues?
Jesus was the greatest Pastor that ever lived and it was his custom to connect the meaning of the text with proper application to the given, real time problem at hand.
For example, in Mark 8 Jesus applies the greatest commandment, to love God and love your neighbor as yourself to a situation that called for Him to provide food for over four thousand people. Because of His love for God, Jesus refused to “just preach the gospel” to these people without out loving them enough to give them something to eat. Now, please correct me if I’m wrong here but this situation that Jesus found himself in looks like a social and cultural issue to me. These people are hungry, and they need to eat not or they will “faint on the way” back home.
So was Jesus wrong for getting culturally involved by feeding the four thousand? Of course not. But if you hold to the same sentiment of the man in the video I watched, Jesus should have only preached the gospel to these people and not troubled himself about their physical needs, or the needs of anyone else whether they are social or cultural.
I hope you see the problem with this line of thinking. It is unbiblical. God does not merely care for the soul of an individual, but he cares for the body as well. God isn’t just concerned about the state of your soul but he is also concerned about the well being of our cities. Why? Because from God’s perspective every area of life is a gospel issue.
There is this gem of a text hidden in the first chapter of Timothy that every Christian should be familiar with when it comes to understanding the unending span of the gospel. The gospel is not limited to a handful of statements that a person can put in a little box and say, “look, these few things make up the gospel.” Instead, the gospel encompasses every area of life.
1 Timothy 1:8-11 (NKJV)-“But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.”
Did you catch that? All these real life issues (the lawless, the insubordinate, the ungodly and the sinners, the unholy and the profane, the murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, and the manslayers, the fornicators, the sodomites, the kidnappers, the liars, the perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine) and all these problematic circumstances, in society and in the culture at large are all addressed in the law of God and Paul says in verse 11 that these are all, “in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.”
Rather than detaching the gospel message from all areas of life, we should recognize that since we have been entrusted with this gospel we should diligently seek to rightly apply this gospel in every area of life, including cultural and social areas of life. In doing so, we are actually fulfilling the Great Commission that Jesus gave to His disciples at the end of His earthly ministry.
Matthew 28:16-20 (NKJV)-“16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Yes, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them and making sure that their individual soul is safe with God, but in the process please do not limit the Gospel message to their individual soul, but teach them also to observe all that Jesus has commanded them to do, which can only be found in the whole of God’s law word. Which, in turn, means that the gospel should be included in every area of life. Every area of every topic and nothing less is a gospel issue in which there can be no neutrality.