Social justice is not the gospel, but it is a natural consequence of the gospel taking root in our hearts. Jesus’ half-brother James says that true faith produces godly action (James 1:22). He further explains that true devotion to God results in taking action to care for those who could never repay us: “orphans and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27, ESV).
The kind of sacrifice that God desires from His people is not meaningless ritual, but action that demonstrates reverent gratitude, generosity, and kindness. Giving of ourselves to care for those who could never repay is a sacred act of worship that imitates the kind of generous love we have received.
In Isaiah 58, the children of Israel are rebuked because of their lack of response to the oppressed, the hungry, and the homeless. The children of Israel were repeatedly commanded to care for those who were displaced or in need, because the Israelites themselves were once immigrants in need. Now they were practicing outward religious activities such as fasting, but they were not demonstrating any evidence of a heart like God’s heart. Their actions may have looked impressive to those watching, but God saw their intentions, attitudes, and motives.
“The motivation to serve others, especially those in need, comes from Jesus’ love for us when we had no way to repay Him.”
When we care for those in need, we better understand the sacrifice made on our behalf: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). The proper response is to then participate in that sacrifice by sharing the same kind of generous love with others. The motivation to serve others, especially those in need, comes from Jesus’ love for us when we had no way to repay Him.
In the parable of the Great Banquet, the Master said, “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame” (Luke 14:21). One of those poor, blind, lame people was me.
So I was grateful to know that on these cold nights, believers all over Bucks County were working together to provide a warm, safe place for those without a home. Thanks to the Advocates for the Homeless and Those in Need, these individuals were provided with more than just a meal and a place to sleep, but also a living picture of God’s generous love. Volunteers, including many believers, gave of themselves to care for others in much the same way that God lavished His grace on them. It was thrilling to see dozens comfortably sleeping in our church’s fellowship hall and to know that the church of Jesus Christ is alive!
May God use His church to point many to the wonderful grace of Jesus by sacrificially living out the incomprehensibly generous grace that was given to us in Christ.
God challenges each of us: What are we doing for those in need who cannot repay?
Originally published at magazine.cairn.edu on June 23, 2015.