Social Gospel or Gospel?

I grew up in a Catholic household so social justice issues were commonplace. Catholics aren't so outwardly evangelistic as most Protestants, but they definitely support missions and justice like helping the poor, rights of the unborn. So, some of the hoopla about "social gospel" is just that, hoopla to me. Still, a book I recently reviewed, The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns, made me question what the distinction was between "social" gospel and Gospel. Is there a difference or does one flow from the other or does one obscure the other?

Truly the tone of the book could lead one to believe that becoming active in social outreaches, feeding the hungry and such, bring about God's kingdom on earth, that our practice of caring for the least of these is the gospel.

I hesitate with that. To me, the Gospel is the amazing good news that God loves us so much that He made a way for us, a people whose hearts are infected with the disease of sin which prevents us from being whole and at peace and with God, to be reunited with Him because He became a man, Jesus, and paid our death penalty (established long, long ago as the consequence for our rebellion against a Right and Justice God). God loves us that much, that He wipes out all our past wrongs to gives us a new life with Him, forever.

Now, I don't believe this is "fire insurance." In choosing to accept Jesus' death as payment for my sin, I am now a citizen of heaven and need to live as one here....not playing a harp and singing praise all the time, but by seeing others as God sees them, missing family members, and trying to show them God's love thru me.

I fail, a lot. I forget Who I serve, Who I love. So, then I confess that I lost a struggle, I make amends, and I try again. No great Christian here, just a goofball who was lucky to find Grace.

In living like a citizen of heaven, bringing God's love to those who do not know Him, I am God's feet to go and find them, His hands to wipe away their tears and bandage their wounds, His mouth to speak love in truth and in grace to them. That is the result of the Gospel alive in me, but it is not the Gospel. Secular relief agencies do the same work because the suffering hurts their hearts and injustice is just wrong. How much more so it should break the heart of the Body of Christ, tho!

And the discussion is not merely theoretical or theological...

My husband and I were in his favorite store yesterday, Bass Pro, and I found myself mesmerized by the amount of items we have on the shelf to deal with mosquitoes. Unfortunately I only had my phone to take the picture so I only captured part of the items. Malaria is spread by mosquitoes. We have nearly, if not completely, eradicated the disease due to the spraying of DDT but it is still a dangerous disease to much of the world. There are around 2 million deaths from malaria each year, but 500 million plus cases. The kids who survive often suffer developmental and/or cognitive delays. Future doesn't look so bright for them, for their economy, for their nation...

Why do we have so many choices, so many options of what to be when we grow up, who to marry, where to live, how to live, while so many in this world are just praying that their child lives thru the night?


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