Must Christians choose between pursuing social justice and promoting moral clarity?
In the past few decades, we’ve watched as Christianity has moved from a major public force to more of a social outlier. Equally disturbing is the apparent moral divide we’ve seen between liberal and conservative Christians, with some choosing to focus on a social justice Gospel and others focusing on personal and social morality.
More recently, we’ve seen traditionally conservative evangelical leaders and churches downplay the moral guidance of the Bible while emphasizing a narrower focus on poverty and racism.
But Dr. David Platt, who wrote the book “Radical” and who now heads up the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Missions Board, is saying, hold on; it doesn’t need to be either/or. In fact, it can’t be. As he writes in his new book, “Counter Culture: Radically Following Jesus with Conviction, Courage, and Compassion,” to be serious about the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to also be concerned about the whole range of social and moral issues impacting culture.
According to Dr. Platt, problems arise when Christians pick and choose which issues to address and which to ignore. By way of example, he shares that many Christians vocally oppose racism and sex trafficking, but remain strangely silent about marriage and pornography.
This softening on moral matters comes about when Christians grow fearful of being divisive. However, as Dr. Platt shared with John Stonestreet on “BreakPoint This Week,” Christians need to realize that “Without question, the most offensive claim in Christianity is that there is a God who is the Creator, and owner, and judge of every person on the planet.” These issues we argue about in the public square are secondary to the fact that God created and rules over all.
Rather than making us more timid in the public square, this central truth of Christianity should give us courage to face the divisive issues head on. Dr. Platt explains that from the beginning, God created marriage between a man and a woman in order to foreshadow the marriage of Christ with His Bride, the Church, and to display the Gospel to the world. So when we avoid defending traditional marriage we practice a kind of “selective social injustice” by denying the fullness of God’s plan to those who desperately need it.
Of course, if you know anything about David Platt, you know he isn’t just trying to change people’s opinions. He wants to change their behavior; radically, if need be. To do that, he lays out a three-fold response for creating a Christian counter-culture, his Three P’s.
The first is Prayer. To pray is to begin the process of impacting culture wherever we are. The second is to Proclaim. We can proclaim the truth about important moral and social issues with Gospel clarity and Gospel compassion. But he also encourages us to be “aggressive about the proclamation of the Gospel because the Gospel brings redemption.”
Finally, we need to be ready to Participate in the cultural issues of the day. That is, we come prepared to join in with what God is already doing in the world.
Christians will always be tempted to conform to the prevailing culture, but when we do, we lose the heart of the Gospel and the foundation of what we believe. The bittersweet aspect of this cultural moment is that while we may live in tough times, the world is ripe for a Gospel that marries moral concerns with social justice.
— by Eric Metaxas
Metaxas is currently the voice of Breakpoint, a radio commentary (www.breakpoint.org) that is broadcast on 400 stations with an audience of eight million.