Does it seem like Christian social involvement, active concern and care for the poor and afflicted, soup kitchens, etc., come primarily from liberal Christian denominations and Catholics?
Would you say this is accurate?
“Strangers” and Hospitality Then
I just finished a book by Christine Pohl called Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition. It was overall a good book.
Most notably, she gave a significant amount of history regarding Christian hospitality. Not hospitality in the sense of having your mom or friends over for dinner, but one that has always been distinctly Christian: Hands on, face-to-face care, compassion and fellowship for and with the poor, weak, persecuted, needy, etc.
This was a major topic and concern for: Jesus (Luke 14:12-14, Matthew 25), Paul (Rom. 12:13), Peter (1 Pet. 4:9), Chrysostom, Basil (and oregano right?), John Wesley, John Calvin, the puritans, William Booth, etc.
Hospitality to “strangers” has always been a major point of discussion and practice throughout church history. It dissolved social and cultural barriers, brought recognition and dignity, and offered a chance for both parties to bless one other.
It was Gospel….and Community.
“Strangers” and Hospitality Now
Fast-forward to today and the concern, the discussion, and the action toward the poor and oppressed “stranger” seems to be led by liberal denominations (and of course Catholics). And I don’t mean taking up donations or donating to abstract charities, but actual face-to-face, hands on, personable hospitality.
Now whether this involves the erroneous social gospel or a works salvation is a discussion for another day, but overall where are the “conservative” (for lack of a better word (not politically speaking)), Bible-believing Christians at when it comes to social involvement and working with the poor, oppressed and refugees? Our high theology should drive us to action right?
(*Disclaimer: This is of course not painting with a broad brush. I am sure there are many solid churches and Christians in the trenches. In addition, perhaps I am wrong in this post. My observation may be inaccurate and I am more than open to correction. Such is the mortal man.)
There are a lot of Reformed and Evangelical guys who get their kicks on Facebook duking it out with each other over modes of Baptism, supralapsarianism, double predestination, etc. thumbing through their Greek texts in hopes to win the arguments. All the while the “half-Bible-believing” brother is down at the soup kitchen loving on those those without a hot meal or without any family.
But these are of course two extremes. We actually need both! Our theology should drive us to a concern and compassion for the “stranger.”
Years ago I used to be somewhat ruthless on Facebook. I think I was still in the Calvinism “cage stage.” What an oxymoron. I often got into heated discussions with an old friend of mine who attends a PCUSA church and is extremely liberal (i.e. pro-abortion, anti-guns, pro gay marriage, loves Elizabeth Warren, etc.). (By the way, what the what???) He always came at me with concerns about those who could not afford medical care or those out on the street with no home or family. I would shoot back with some abstract theological and philosophical, yet predictable, answer to combat his fluffy views on the totality and sufficiency of Scripture.
I was right in the mind, yet wrong in the heart.
As the years have passed, I have come to see his concern. In fact I have come to share his concern for those who are displaced and struggling in society, regardless if it is their fault or not. I also, simultaneously, maintain that his solutions are unbiblical and unhelpful. In other words, my theology has not changed, but the abstract “solutions” that spewed from my mouth have turned into a tangible conviction about my own social impotency.
Again, it is both! There is Gospel…..and there is Community.
Us middle class citizens need to take an honest minute to ponder the condition that some of our fellow image bearers are in. It is real out there! There are some people really suffering and alone.
Yet the answer comes from God’s Word. It is the Gospel, which is the power of God in word form, AND it is the physical, hands on service as we look to help the poor and displaced.
Conclusion and Discussion
So where am I headed with this? What is the solution?
Well, I don’t have one. In fact, much of this stems from own failure to cultivate a lifestyle of hospitality.
My aim in this post is to stir discussion and to encourage those who have all the concepts together to consider doing something. What? I don’t know. You tell me.
Why are most downtown churches liberal-leaning? Why do these denominations run all the soup kitchens? Why are these Christians hands on, face to face, while we safely send our packages to be dropped off? Why are Catholics (still) so compassionate towards social action and social involvement (aside from the desire for good works)? Why are solid, Bible-believing churches in the nicer neighborhoods and suburbs?
I would love to hear your thoughts, all are welcome. I would also love to hear from those who are involved with the poor, hands on.
Current & Future Reads
My next book to read is one by Tim Chester (who is becoming one of my favorite new authors), called Good News To The Poor. It’s a book focused on not pitting word against deed (such as the social gospel or pietism), but showing how it is both…….The Gospel AND Social Involvement. They go together.
I’ll let you know my thoughts when I finish it.
Also, check out the book mentioned above, Making Room. It was helpful in looking at the history of Christian hospitality (philoxenia (love to the stranger)), the unexpected blessings that it brings to the host (and the guest), the power of breaking social distinctions and creating equality between all believers, modern day examples of those who practice this, and some of the dangers and mistakes that come along with it. (Just make sure you disregard all the “exile” theology).
And again share your thoughts below.