• Every church must do social justice part 4: The witness of History

    The early church in Greco roman world were notorious for bring stingy with how they gave their bodies away sexually and promiscuous about how they gave their money away. The Pagan Emperor Julian said this about Christians and their charity “Whilst the pagan priests neglect the poor, the hated Galileans devote themselves to works of charity . . . These impious Galileans not only feed their own poor, but ours also; welcoming them into their agape . . .”[1] Did you see what has happened because of Christians attitude to the poor the emperor is proclaiming the merits of the Christians!

    This kind of promiscuity with money and possessions was preached in the puritan era of the church. Jonathan Edwards, a man whose preaching was notable in its orthodoxy and whose theology is a passionate and yet extremely balanced and carefully weighted exposition of biblical truth nevertheless can say this “Tis the most absolute and indispensable duty of a people of God to give bountifully and willingly for the supply of the wants of the needy.”[2] For Edwards, one of the ways the church (notice the language of a people of God) displays the gospel is in its attitude to the poor. For Edwards it is the riches we behave been given in Christ which forms the basis of why we give generously to the poor. Speaking of Jesus Edwards says: “Consider that silver, and gold, and earthly crowns, were in his esteem but mean things to give us, and he hath therefore given us his own Son. Christ loved and pitied us, when we were poor, and he laid out himself to help, and even did shed his own blood for us without grudging. He did not think much to deny himself, and to be at great cost for us vile wretches, in order to make us rich, and to clothe us with kingly robes, when we were naked; to feast us at his own table with dainties infinitely costly, when we were starving; to advance us from the dunghill, and set us among princes, and make us to inherit the throne of his glory, and so to give us the enjoyment of the greatest wealth and plenty to all eternity. Agreeably to 2 Cor. 8:9, “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” Considering all these things, what a poor business will it be that those who hope to share these benefits yet cannot give something for the relief of a poor neighbour without grudging! That it should grieve them to part with a small matter, to help a fellow servant in calamity, when Christ did not grudge to shed his own blood for them!”[3]For Edwards, as well as for us, the basis for social Justice is the Gospel it is not in competition with the Gospel!

    The last person from the history of the church I want to look at is the great Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  Spurgeon was known as the prince of preachers by many who heard him and yet he was no mere orator. He was a man who was possessed by the gospel so much so that he not only preached it with passion and compassion but he defended the truth of the gospel like a young lioness defends her cubs.[4] This is significant because here is a man of very strong reformed theology who defends the truth but when found in the midst of the squalor of inner city London in the 19th century Spurgeon not only preached the gospel but he also did many started many organisations that cared for the poor and needy. Here is a list of the works Spurgeon started:

    • An almshouse for needy Widows[5]
    • A free school for poor children[6]
    • A theological college to train young men who couldn’t afford to go to university
    • In 1867 an orphanage for young boys[7]
    • In 1879 An orphanage for girls[8]
    • A fund for the poor [9]
    • A Sunday school for the blind[10]

    So alongside his preaching and defending of the gospel Spurgeon showed a deep concern for the poor which overflowed in social justice.

    This all too brief survey of church history shows that Social justice and the gospel go hand in hand and therefore we cannot say that if we do social justice we will neglect the gospel because that statement is historically unfounded. We have also seen that the church throughout the ages has cared for the poor as an outworking of its adherence to the gospel


    [1] Quoted in Keller, Ministries, 108

    [2] Edwards, Jonathan, Christian Charity: or, The Duty of Charity of the Poor, Explained and Enforced. In The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 2 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1974), 163

    [3] Edwards, Christian Charity, in Works,

    [4] See Murray, Iain. The Forgotten Spurgeon. (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1966),

    [5] Dallimore, Arnold, C. H. Spurgeon: A New Biography [Moody Press: Chicago, 1984)],125

    [6] Dallimore , C. H. Spurgeon,125

    [7] Dallimore , C. H. Spurgeon, 126

    [8] Dallimore, C. H. Spurgeon, 129

    [9] Drummond, Lewis A. Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1992),437

    [10] Drummond, Spurgeon, 438

     

  • Live your life for what counts

    I read an article today called The top 5 regrets people have on their deathbed.

    It was a sobering read.

    When I think of regrets in life I always think of the Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards. If you have never heard of the resolutions, they were written by Edwards in his late teen years and they are well worth taking the time to read them. Each of the resolutions is a decision that Edwards has made to improve his life in the light of the gospel. Of the seventy resolutions, some resolutions deal with his thought life, some with his actions and some deal with how he used time. If we take them all together we get the bid idea that Edwards wants to live every minute of his life for Jesus.

    Here are my favourite of Jonathan Edward’s resolutions:

    4. Resolved, Never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God, nor be, nor suffer it, if I can possibly avoid it.

    5. Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.

    6. Resolved, To live with all my might, while I do live.

    7. Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.

    16. Resolved, Never to speak evil of any one, so that it shall tend to his dishonour, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

    17. Resolved, That I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

    24. Resolved, Whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then, both carefully endeavour to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.

    28. Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

    41. Resolved, to ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better.

    52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, That I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.

    Read Number 52 again

    52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, That I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.

    We all know of old people with regrets who wish they had done things differently. If we were to ask Edwards what he thinks the key to living life in such a way as to die knowing that you have live life to the fullest I think he would say two things:

    1. Live every moment for Jesus

    2. Be in every moment

    When I think about these two things I ask myself the following questions:

    1. Am I taking my cues about who I am from Jesus or something or someone else?
    2. Are there things in my life that I know Jesus wouldn’t approve of?
    3. How am I using my time?
    4. Am I coasting through life or attacking it?
    5. Of the moments in my day am I really there or am I punching the clock?
    6. Are my relationships where they need to be?

    How are you doing with your life?

    Are you living every moment of every day for Jesus?

    Are you in every moment?

    Are you in every conversation?

    Or are you just punching the clock waiting till death or the return of Jesus?