Evangelism or social involvement – Chicken or Egg?
I’ve written of the tension between the Gospel of the Left proclaimed by liberal denominations that is all about social justice and the Gospel of the Right which is all about evangelism. I’ve just had a very cool breakthrough that is so Third Way…
May is ministry month here at St. Mary’s and I am exploring Jesus’ model for ministry found in the Gospels, particularly Luke 4. Jesus reads out Isaiah 61.1-2 to the hometown congregation at synagogue on the Sabbath, sits down and says, “I’m it!” Isaiah 61 is a description of the Year of Jubilee commanded by God to take place every 49 – 50 years.
In reading/studying all across the Gospels I kept seeing a pattern in Jesus’ ministry: Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 – 8 (the Greek of Matthew 6.33 being translated as either “justice” OR “righteousness” – “Seek God’s kingdom first, and his “justice”/”righteousness”); the Lord’s Prayer (“forgive us our debts/trespasses AS we forgive our debtors/those who trespass against us); his parables. I also noticed how the early church in Acts 4.34 are described as having “no poor among them.” Which is an almost direct quote of the Septuagint’s translation of Deuteronomy 15.4, “there will be no needy person among you,” again describing the Year of Jubilee.
I started to pull together my reading/study with an excellent book on the grand narrative of Scripture by Christopher Wright, The Mission of God, in Chapter 9 entitled “God’s Model of Restoration: Jubilee” gave me the theological structure I needed to make a compelling case for an ultimate goal and holistic sense of Jesus’ and later the Church’s ministry in Jubilee. There are five key elements in the model. All must be present if we are to be faithful students of Jesus:
1. Obey the sovereignty of God – Like all the laws concerning Sabbath, the jubilee proclaimed God’s lordship over time and nature, and submission to it would require submission to that sovereignty.
2. Trust the providence of God – Observing a fallow year would require faith in God’s providence as the one who will command blessing in the natural order and provide for your basic needs. Which harmonizes wonderfully with the purpose of tithing in discipleship (Deuteronomy 14).
3. Know the redeeming acts of God – The repeated appeals to the knowledge of God’s acts of redemption in HISTORY (the Exodus, the Return from Exile, the CROSS), illuminated for us in Holy Scripture was a way in jubilee to work out the implications (submitted to the Word of God) that we who were once slaves are now redeemed slaves of God.
4. Experience personally the sacrificial atonement provided by God – The jubilee was proclaimed on THE DAY OF ATONEMENT. To know yourself forgiven by God was to issue in practical remission of the debt of others. Lots of Jesus’ parables sprang to mind, as does the Lord’s Prayer. Jubilee establishes the need for personal conversion and renewal. We imitate Jesus not through His career first, but through His CROSS.
5. Practice God’s justice and put your hope in God’s promise for the future – There is an inbuilt future hope of the literal jubilee (Revelation 21), blended with an final restoration of humanity and nature to God’s original purpose (Romans 8).
Watch how this harmonizes with the Gospel proclamation in Acts/Epistles:
- God has sent his Son into the world.
- God has kept his promise to Israel.
- Jesus had died and is risen and even now reigning as Lord and King.
- In the name of Jesus Christ we can now know forgiveness of sins through repentance and faith in his blood shed on the cross.
- Christ will return in glory.
- The Kingdom of God will be fully established in the new creation.
The local church as a whole reflecting the wholeness of God’s redemption to a lost world.
Very St. Mary’s. Very Third Way.