Barely a week goes by when I’m not called a liberal or chastised for promoting a left wing agenda. This week I was accused of “verging towards the liberalism side of the spectrum”, which admittedly is much nicer than the many times I’ve been labelled a “libtard”, a charming expression favored by some of my critics.
My crime: I have advocated for refugees, particularly women and children who are incarcerated in mandatory detention; I have championed the plight of indigenous peoples; I have insisted on greater social equity for the poor.
The terrible thing I did this week that got me accused of liberalism was I attended a conference at which speakers addressed such topics as the powerful grip of the gambling lobby, justice for refugees, and the insidious nature of the sex industry.
Since when did speaking up for the poor, or those trapped in the sex industry, or those imprisoned by a cruel immigration policy, become a left wing agenda??
And when did it become our standard tactic to dismiss things we don’t like to hear by labelling them ‘liberal’ and turning our back?
Even my most conservative critics have to admit the Bible is awash with references to justice, reconciliation, care for the poor, and hope for the imprisoned. It seems their greatest beef is with the fact that I don’t appear to preach the gospel of individual salvation enough.
One critic carped, “I can’t remember you ever giving a gospel presentation on your blog or facebook page”, and “The only time Jesus is mentioned is through a framework of political activism. There is no longer a call for personal repentance and belief in Jesus who came to wash our sins away.”
It appears we still live in a world where personal salvation and social justice are seen as mutually exclusive ideas and to mention one is to abandon belief in the other.
I believe in the kingship of Jesus. And I believe that in fulfilling all of Israel’s hopes for the eternal throne promised to King David, the Kingdom of Jesus is seen in the alternative ethic of his redeemed followers, an ethic of justice, reconciliation, beauty and wholeness.
Our job, as his followers, is to both announce and demonstrate what the rule of King Jesus is like and invite others to join us, to recognize that Jesus’ sacrificial death atoned for the sins of all, and that his resurrection establishes him as the Son whom God has appointed judge of the world and Lord of the coming kingdom.
When we separate the announcing part from the demonstrating part we weaken both aspects of our assignment. Preaching without demonstration is hollow. Many people are tired of Christians endlessly preaching without ever demonstrating what the reign of King Jesus looks like.
But, as David Bosch says, “Unexplained actions do not in themselves constitute the mission of God’s people.” We must also announce the kingship of Jesus and call people to find shelter within it.
Does this mean every time I post a status update about the plight of refugees I should add a line about Jesus dying for your sins?
Is the gospel really just a set of magic words, like an incantation, I have to blurt out to appear to be true to Jesus?
The gospel is the whole story about God’s dealings with humankind in order to get us to recognize his reign and rule, to live under it, and to be fashioned into a new way of being human. That new way of being human includes justice for refugees, succor for the poor, food for the hungry, mercy for the outcast, and so much more.
If you think you can dish that extraordinary message up in a few lines in a status update you haven’t properly understood it.