Social Outcomes of the Gospel

The argument has frequently been made that the Kingdom of God proclaimed and demonstrated by Jesus Christ focuses people only on heaven.

No so.

 

The Gospel has impacted society for good against great odds and at great cost many times through the centuries. 

 

No other person or vision has brought more blessing to society than that of Jesus.

 

Remember also that frequent Bible reading increases commitment to social and economic justice.


Murray&Carol in 1976

The Powerful Reality:

Please consider an historical overview of the effects of the Gospel on social transformation (Dr. Rikk Watts of Regent College, Vancouver, Dr. Vishal Mangalwadi and others academics); as well as the observations of an award-winning reporter with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

A practical example is shared by Miriam Adeney Kingdom Without Borders: The Untold Story of Global Christianity, InterVarsity Press, 2009, 294 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8308-3849-3:

"Sometimes the gospel saves a whole people from annihilation. In Borneo, in the middle of the nineteenth century the British governor prohibited head-hunting and improved agricultural methods. More rice and freedom from fear led to more fermented beverages, partying and heavy drinking. Alcoholism became a major scourge, families were broken, and violence erupted frequently. Then in Australia, several Christians felt called to serve the Lun Bawang and Kelabit people. When they arrived, officials tried to discourage them. They said it was not worthwhile because those people are going to disappear. They will be gone in a generation. Nevertheless, the missionaries did go. They shared God's good news. The people responded. Lives changed. They quit drinking. Families healed. They asked the government for schools. Today they are literate, contributing citizens. Including believers in nearby tribes, there are 150,000 followers of Jesus, and more than one thousand churches. They say, "The gospel saved us, not only as individuals but as a people." (p. 31) 

Laws are not enough. Government is not enough. Education is not enough. Economic development is not enough. The Gospel saves.

The Indissoluble Link with Truth:

Some have therefore argued that the good done by the Gospel leaves 'whether the Gospel is true' an irrelevant question. I don't agree and have come rather to be convinced than the link between the truth of the Gospel and the effects of the Gospel cannot be broken, either in theory or practice (or in any sphere of life; despite the fact Christians often mature slowly). The grace and truth of God in Christ (root) is inevitably linked with its results (fruit) as Jesus made clear: "By their fruit shall you know them." (Matthew 7:16)

I commend an elaboration of this connection in Vishal Mangalwadi's Truth and Social Reform (in PDF). The third edition of this book focus's on India and has since been enlarged to include the west in his Truth and Transformation: a Manifesto for Ailing Nations. Seattle: YWAM Publishing, 2009.

Your Generation and Mine:

Yet cultural transformation lasts only when hearts in each successive generation are truly changed by Jesus Christ. This commitment to Christ must take place afresh each generation - an example from my generation of the measurable results when government removes Christian values from society illustrates this point clearly.

  • Idealism or passion alone will not sustain in the long-run in the face of opposition.

  • Making 'relevance' of engagement the highest goal is inadequate for permanence. The desire for relevance if not centered on relationship with Christ eventually succeeds only in compromising the values of the one seeking to relate to the culture with the result of  being absorbed into it. 

  • Social activism for its own sake tends to make only relatively temporary surface changes unless the majority of hearts in a culture are in fact transformed by an encounter with the risen Christ resulting in personal commitment to follow Him as Lord. 

If following Christ personally and inviting others to do the same fails to be the priority of several successive generations, that culture will slip back into ethics of their own making. For each generation the priority must remain discipling people to Jesus Christ if lasting social transformation is to result.