social gospel

I am an adherent of the social gospel.

God is at work in the world transforming not only the souls of individual human beings, but re-building communities of people by reconciling the broken social bonds that have created injustices and inequalities. One need only look at the life of Christ to know this is true. Christ’s first recorded sermon (Luke 4), spoken from the book of Isaiah in the Temple, reveals that his mission is to “preach good news to the poor … recovery of sight for the blind … to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” As I’ve written in a previous post, Jesus’ words likely would have been heard first and foremost as being restorative of broken social relationships, then spiritual lives. What a profound sermon to begin the formal ministry of Jesus!

And Jesus’ ministry would back up his words in the Temple that day. He called together a community of disciples that contained individuals who would, under any other circumstance, be enemies — an employee of the Roman government (Matthew, a tax collector) and a violent revolutionary against said government (Simon, a Zealot). Over and over, he sought to restore the humanity of prostitutes, tax collectors, and lepers, declaring that his good news was for all people and essentially evens the playing field. The Bible is replete with examples after example of a God that restores broken social relationships and the humanity of the marginalized and poor, but space doesn’t allow me to list them all here. (what are some more? list them in the comments section)

Yes, we are restored spiritually to our creator when we call on Him and live into His way. But the reign of God — his Kingdom — breaks into every area of our lives, “on earth as it is in heaven,” not least our social bonds and physical world. We were created for community, and God’s mission is to restore us to community with himself and with others. By relegating the gospel to the spiritual realm or the afterlife, Christians have ignored the clear social implications of the gospel, which declares good news for people here on Earth as well as when we die. This theology profoundly affects the way in which we live in this world.

So I believe in the social gospel. And the physical gospel, and the spiritual gospel. May we never truncate or sell short the vastness of the mission of God, into which he invites us to join him. May we do just that.

Note: The Social Gospel movement began in the late 19th century as “a movement that applied Christian principles to social problems, especially poverty, inequality, liquor, crime, racial tensions, slums, bad hygiene, poor schools, and the danger of war” (wiki). When I mention the social gospel, I am not referring to this movement in Christian history.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Lynn Holt on July 16, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    This is your best post ever, Stephen!!



  2. Posted by Terry from Texas on July 16, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    Steve…I think your mom may be right! I just read your post over and over while listening to
    Cat Stevens sing “Father and Son”…I digress…great post… I believe it!


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