Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18
Joel C. Seifert
What does it look like when the church loves the world? It depends on what you mean by “the church.”
The “social gospel” movement began its influence on American Christianity a century ago. It taught that the mission Christ gave to the church is to love the world by feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and providing for the needy. Increasingly today, there’s a call for churches to love the world by being involved in “social justice.” The United Nations has declared Feb. 20 “World Social Justice Day.”
Remember the mission of the church
God calls the church to love the world. When it comes to our corporate activity as his church, he tells us what that means. “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19,20). The church’s primary mission is to proclaim God’s Word in truth and to administer the sacraments. When our churches do this, they proclaim God’s love to the world.
When the church is called to take an active role in social justice movements, there’s much to be cautious about. We dare not lose our focus on the gospel. It’s easy to give the impression that the goal of the church is to reform society, not preach salvation for sinners. And at times the modern social justice movement advocates for the recognition of immoral lifestyles or actions as legitimate and good. It’s good that a Christian doesn’t take part in such activities.
But we dare not lose sight of our responsibility to love the world in other ways.
Remember God’s call to the Christian
Certainly, God calls the church to love the world by proclaiming the gospel. God calls the Christian to love the world in so many additional ways: We’re to provide for our families and be good citizens and good neighbors, to name a few. Consider also his command in Proverbs: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (31:8,9).
God calls the Christian to love the world by caring about justice for all and by actively working for it. When individual believers do that, his “invisible church” loves the world.
What a unique gift Christians are to the world when we do that in our personal lives! Guided by God’s Word, instead of the shifting morals of this world, we can speak up to protect the unborn, because we know that those living souls are precious to God. We can sound a clear call for equal justice for people of all economic and ethnic backgrounds, knowing all of mankind is created and loved by God. We can listen to God’s call to defend the rights of the poor and needy, rejoicing in Jesus’ promise that when we do this, we do it for him.
February is a month when we love to talk about love. Let’s always encourage our churches to keep their focus on the proclamation of the gospel. And let that gospel message continue to encourage us to love our neighbor in action and in truth. God grant that he blesses this world as his people love others by speaking for those who can’t speak for themselves.
Author: Joel C. Seifert
Volume 106, Number 2
Issue: February 2019
- Known for a higher hope
- Known as God’s distinctive community
- Embodying God’s calling
- Help from the Mountain Maker
- The need for a bold confession
- More than enough
- Don’t judge a book by its cover
- One for all
- I love you
- Resolving to share joy
- Miracle in the mess
- Thank God for conflict
- Plant the Seed
- The cameras are rolling
- Too many words
- Now what?
- Do you mind if I come in?
- Facts over feelings
- The most loving friendship
- The old has gone, the new is here!
- Believe the Christmas miracles
- He’s coming—really!
- Power over death
- Deliver us from evil
- Overwhelmed but not overcome
- Money talks!
- Freedom’s value is in its use
- Joyful repentance
- The world’s leading philanthropist is our friend
- Like Joseph
- But you promised!
- The church sees color
- We believe, therefore we listen
- Clarity in life from closeness to death
- Be like Jesus in forgiveness and love
- Be gentle like Jesus
- Jesus is for the birds
- Death dies on this mountain
- Repent of deception
- Resolutions of faith
- God loves the doubters
- Grieving in hope
- Personal reformation
- Be imitators of Jesus in doing good
- God’s actors
- Our shelter in God’s shadow
- God’s promised rest
- Our very great reward
- Keeping the festival
- Close enough to love
- Called to love, called to speak
- Epiphanies change everything