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.
31 thoughts on “It’s Not a Liberal Agenda, it’s the Gospel!”
It’s a radically real faith that threatens others. Keep it up!!
True, Bec. As the Good Book says, “When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers”. Prov 21:15
The yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod runs deep Mike…and they continually denounce or label what they fear and dismiss what they do not understand for it is all about protecting a world view that they have invested heavily into…with time, talent and tithe…your crime…if you want to call it that (for I don’t) is that you live and breathe in such a way to shine the light of Jesus in such a way that peels back the corner of that to see what is underneath which exposes the real issues that contribute to the allusion of control and certainty! That is a very Gospel thing to do i would have thought! Keep up the great gospel work mate…Championing the cause of Jesus and inspiring many of us in our journey of doing the same!
Great blog Mike. Jesus calls us to a new way of living!
yep, this is my faith DNA. NOT liberal,… but biblical and Gospel.
O sweet words of inclusiveness which demonstrate the early authentic fellowship of believers is a twofold strategy that the scripture endorses. The gospel news about Jesus and the mission towards the created people of God to share equally in the resources that God has provider. Our duty is to shout out the inequality by people to defend people affected caused by systematic fever.
As you have written in The Incarnate, the sad story of progress is the excarnate of environment and people engaging in “do not belong here”. People are mirroring that experience to deride others of the experiences through injustice and ineqaulity.
I admire your stand as I wake up the traditional brethren in the church seat that it is more than about worshiping God on that one time in the week. We are not encouraged by the influences of past people like Martin Luther King Jr because he is not a character in the Bible, we can only talk about Moses, Abraham and David etc – must be scriptural you know. Todays church are deplunge from other people’s example outside of the Bible but are inspired by the Bible.
May God give you grace in our Lord Jesus Name, Amen.
Love what you have to say but, What has any it have to do with liberal?
It seems SO far removed from Liberal Agenda.
What am I missing?
He means “liberal” theology (as opposed to conservative evangelical theology), not capital L Liberal Party…. which is a conservative party these days).
Yeah good just clarifying that. So many churches push a liberal government and it always blows my mind as I see very little liberal agenda with much social conscious.
In some circles to be Christian is to vote liberal and that does my head in.
Vote for who you want but don’t push a bias that says to be Christian is to vote for a particular party.
So I just totally wanted to clarify that liberal was referencing theology.
I wouldn’t have thought any mainstream churches would push for one major party or another… it’s not their job.
Oh yes they do! Lol. Not overtly, like America, but it’s very very strongly implied.
I don’t think such people have ever read your books Mike…. It’s a shame that people still want to compartmentalise the gospel into little ‘safe’ bits – it’s just poor theology
Lack of understanding. When you have grown up under one Theological system and one way of seeing the Bible, anything different seems heretical. It took me being challenged and an open mind before I realized the gospel of the Kingdom is much more than I had realized previously.
You are obviously swimming up against the current “evangelical” stream with all this talk/action taken on behalf of the least, the left out and the looked over. Keep it up, we need more leaders like you!
Thank you Mike for this well framed reorientation of what is the Gospel & not a label. Keep going.
Been thinking about conducting some research among church-goers where they are given 10 paraphrases of ‘red-letter’ quotes [let the reader understand] and ask them to name the speaker. Think the results would be interesting.
Excellent Mike. You can’t break the gospel down in to a Facebook post, it is a life lived and testimony to God’s saving grace. I love that you’ve never dodged individual repentance (I’ve heard you preaching that countless times to great effect) and your blog didn’t either but to limit the kingdom of God to only an individual response is to sell it terribly, terribly short.
They said: “I can’t remember you ever giving a gospel presentation.” On my blog I never give a ‘gospel presentation’ either. But I do frequently share the good news invitation: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
This is Jesus’ invitation into the kingdom of God. No ‘gospel presentation’ or sinner’s prayer necessary.
Thank you for taking a stand. So many ministers will not speak out for fear that their congregation or higher ups in the church will be offended. How can things change if we do not follow Jesus’ example or are too afraid of ostracisism (and worse)
The kingdom or reign of God is a present as well as a future reality. Jesus, in his life, demonstrated and proclaimed its in-breaking, and called upon his disciples to do the same. Too many see the kingdom as “”some day far away,” and “getting into heaven”” as the purpose of Christian faith – it has little to do with that, and if that is why we are a Christian, we have hardly begun the journey. Paul said that he would gladly spend eternity away from God”s presence if it could mean the salvation of his people. Likewise, Jesus’ own death was not for his sake, but for ours. The “life for others” part of the faith is it’s most important part, the part where we are closest to God, “”who so loved the world that he sent his only Son,” and where we are most Christ-like, “”he emptied himself, taking on human form, and being found in human form, emptied himself, taking on the form of a servant.” This is the Gospel message – not that “”Jesus saved me,”” so that I can get to heaven.
Are we perhaps entering a new post-evangelical era when the false binary between gospel and social justice will finally be laid to rest?
I’ve been hoping that for decades. The binary you talk about dominated the 20th Century but was unravelling at the turn of this century. The paradigm obviously runs deep for many people and it’s resonances are taking longer to reject than I thought. A lot of it is anxiety. Conservative evangelical people seem to fear any nod toward social justice is a repudiation of the importance of evangelism and get on their high horses about it. Maybe another generation will make the difference.
Great blog post. I’m about to write an essay on this very topic for my theological studies. Any chance you could site your reference for David Bosch? I’d like to use it!
Oh, it’s from Transforming Mission, but I can’t recall the deets. I’m away from my office this week so I can’t check.
When you read the gospels it is crystal clear that Jesus did two things all the time: pointed people to himself as the Messiah and social justice. His entire ministry was ushering in the beginning of the new age and he exhibited foretastes of it everywhere he went. As you say, Mike, both proclamation and demonstration. The Jesus ethic is interwoven throughout the New Testament. The Good Samaritan is a classic example of loving your neighbor.
Many years while working at a very conservative company. I was asked on WORld day of prayer to pray that morning prayer. In my prayerI prayed for the Democratic President in office at the Time. After the service someone come up to me and accused !e of being a Liberal Lover.
I have tried to understand how people tend to spiritualize matters either because the situation deems it as so or lessens the guilt, and maybe both. However, there is one thing that I know for sure, in the last 20years genocide in Rwanda, Sudan, Congo, Burundi, Liberia, Sierra Leon, e.t.c too many countries in one concentrated region to mention. Millions of people have been killed, families misplaced, and the jungle becoming the only refuge to thousands of children. No scriptures are being quoted over these African families or Christians voicing out that these are women and children… none of that, in Rwanda alone more than 800,000 lives were slaughtered in a month. One can almost hear the drum beat matching to the sound, “Let each slaughter their own…” My question is, if the doors have been barred for these countries and others alike, why now is it “the Christian thing to do for countries in distress? I thought what’s good for the goose is good for the gender?
Let’s call a spade a spade and not a big spoon! Special Interest governs all things! Helping refugees has absolutely nothing to do with God, Jesus or even the Bible, it’s all about man and his invested interest.
I’m all for a government that will do what it deems as ‘right’ or ‘good’ because at the end of the day, it is not an eternal entity! However, when Christians pick and chose then start quoting scriptures, I can’t be silent.
Here’s a picture of an ~11yr old on the way to a feeding center, too weak to walk and collapses. I bet you the vultures can wait to feast!! Absolutely no cry from the Christian camp quoting Isaiah 58.
Let us all do what we have to do and quit soiritualizing our actions!
I have a hard time believing there is such a polarization. I don’t see it where I live. I see religion vs grace a lot (especially online) but not many disagree that works and faith must both be present, including the call to stand for the oppressed. I wonder what community (other than online) you are familiar with? We often have the discussion about how we are to be and look separate from the world. We have faith, we know the Spirit has changed us, but just doing good in the neighbourhood doesn’t make us look any different than Tom and Jane Do-Gooder down the street who haven’t even heard of Jesus. You hit the nail on the head; we are not proclaiming Jesus. A super challenge and eye-opener you have presented to us in that. (Well, at least myself)
Being raised in and following conservative Christianity for 31 years- I can honestly say I am fearful. I met Alan, Hugh at Exponential and am reading and watching Mike on You-tube. My heart yearns for this new found passion for others. I am praying for balance and not safety. A Go and Live with Make Disciples faith. Thank you Mike for your heart for Jesus and others.