• Tom Strode

Thoughts on the social justice statement (part 4)

Let me get right to the primary point of the final post in this series -- "The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel" would have profited from a different approach.

It would have been much better if the statement had not been just a list of affirmations and denials. It would have been much better if, instead, the original signers had produced a document that interacted with the ideas of other equally Bible-based and equally gospel-focused brothers and sisters who approach some of the issues at hand in different ways. It would have been much better if, instead, they had produced a piece that acknowledged and dealt with America's centuries-long history of slavery, subjugation, segregation or discrimination in light of the gospel of Jesus.

Of course, that approach would have been more complicated. It would have taken more time. It would have required listening to and talking to fellow saints who offered different insights. It might have called for a public symposium and a document that outlined the areas of agreement and disagreement. It would have cost more.

But it would have been worth it on this issue. Such an approach and document would have provided a greater benefit to the church in America and a more winsome witness to those outside the church in America. A process focused on truth while marked by grace and love -- as well as a document that represents views on all sides charitably -- could have offered an antidote to the harshness and unkindness that marks too much of the online communication by evangelicals.

Maybe the original signers sought to do this very thing, but the explanation in the social justice statement about its origin does not mention such an effort.

Yes, my suggestion sounds naive and idealistic, maybe even foolish. But our Lord came "full of grace and truth" (John 1:14), and we are to be like Him. And the message we proclaim is foolishness to the world (I Corinthians 1:18-25), and we are to expect some charges of foolishness -- even if they come from within evangelicalism. Shouldn't we strive not just to speak the truth but to do it graciously by reaching out to those with a common commitment to Scripture and the gospel and by seeking to understand and to represent others' viewpoints accurately no matter what side they are on?

It would have helped at this moment in time to have a document that not only strongly defends the gospel, which is vital, but also addresses with clarity the implications of that gospel for the church in a country that has long struggled with achieving justice for the vulnerable and marginalized. It would have helped to have a document that provides guidance on how the gospel enables us to love our neighbors publicly and informs our attitude and actions regarding injustice toward ethnic minorities, the unborn, the disabled, the terminally ill and beleaguered refugees.

Maybe that document will yet come from followers of Christ who are at this time on opposite sides of the social justice debate.

-- Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash


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