Social Justice, the Body of Christ, and the Reputation of Christians

Over at the Huffington Post, Zach Hunter has written a piece about his work in the area of human trafficking. At only 19–and having started his ministry when he was only 12–his track record likely puts many other believers to shame, so to speak. In this article, he speaks on the theological truth that we should be presenting the Gospel with actions as well as with words, and I think he is spot on. They will know we are Christians by our love, after all, and Jesus’ final call to us is to ‘make disciples': a necessarily active and action-oriented statement.

I only have a couple of points about Mr. Hunter’s post. The first is that I think he hits the nail on the head when speaking of the reputation of Christians: people are surprised to hear he is a believer. Today, many believers are not living the gospel, often favoring the preaching of the word to the doing of the word. We should be stepping our game up at every opportunity. This is something I’m guilty of as much as you are, I suspect, and I do not point a finger without reminding myself of my own inadequacies.

My second point is a bit of a push back on the tone of Mr. Hunter’s post. The message trumpeted here is nothing new, but we must remember that different parts of the Body of Christ are designed for different functions. Some may be the sort to go to Africa to help with orphanages, but others may be best serving their local community. Others are wired best to serve the saints, building up and supporting those who work in Africa or in local ministries. This does not excuse not being a part of ministry at all, of course, for as lights we are meant to shine regardless of formal involvement, but we must be careful not to romanticize or idolize ministries that take place far away. Mission trips are awesome, and so are the many ministries involved in going to other countries and proclaiming the Gospel in word and deed, but Jesus said to go and make disciples of all nations, including our own. Our calls are different in the body, so let’s not shame Christians into feeling guilty because they have never been to Africa. If we are going to shame Christians, let’s do it on the merit of many believers never learning to truly love their believing or non-believing neighbors.

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J.F. Arnold

James received his MA in Philosophy of Religion at Talbot School of Theology in 2013. He holds a BA in Biblical Studies from Biola University, and is a graduate and perpetual member of the Torrey Honors Institute. James blogs on a number of subjects, including technology, theology, and hip-hop. He has written for Biola’s Center for Christianity, Culture, & the Arts, The Gospel Coalition, and he is an editor for Mere Orthodoxy. You can also keep up with him on Twitter (@jamesfarnold).