Tag Archives: Social Action

Where Spirituality and Social Action Collide: Some Wisdom

First: The active life must be surrounded not with acts of devotion (we are often too busy for that).  The active life must be filled with the age old skill of listening to God in every circumstance that comes our way.  If we find ourselves in a season of dryness or depression as someone who is trying to make a difference, we approach the season itself as a gift from above and abandon ourselves anew to the higher power Who cares far more than we ever could.

Second, we pay attention to our limits.  We can over-express our call to join God in the dark places.  We trust that God will protect us as we join Him, though we also know that we cannot work along side God in every way.  We listen to the ways we have been uniquely made and led and gently but decisively press into limited areas of God’s broken but sacred creation.

Third, obedience is less about gritting-it-out especially when you don’t want to.  It is more about what originates in the hidden sanctuary and the guidance found there.  I used to hate the part of ministry where you had to approach somebody in the cold or worse write a card to him or her if they put their name on the attendance ledger that week.  I disingenuously did it anyway out of a lower sense of obedience.   Obedience as more of a faithfulness to our unique selves and what bubbles up from it.

Fourth, in social work, we often experience a God like impulse for care.  This can be very dangerous.  I put myself in a kingly role while you, poor you, are the recipient of my care.  This way disregards the hidden nobility in others and the texture of God’s kingdom that persistently reminds us of the spiritual riches we might find in the marginalized and physically destitute.  In reaction to this possible abuse of power, some throw the baby out with the bath water.  We must not crush the impulse to be God-like, we must reorient ourselves to God’s true self.  When we discover that God is a glory giver, not a glory grabber, we see that our most God-like moments will be filled with suffering and self-giving.

Theological Visions for Social Action

Theological Vision 1: Creation and New Creation (Genesis 1.27; Revelation 21)

New Creation serves as a central motif drawing together a host of our issues at hand. For the previous few centuries our Christian imaginations have slumbered, intoxicated by an anemic vision.  We have come to accept that our world is heading for destruction, that our cultures matter little, and that our end is in some ethereal spirit home called heaven.  This could not be further from the revelation.  We see in the book of Revelation and in the teachings of Jesus and Paul that our world is being remade, with the seed of the new creation starting to grow now.  Our cultures will not be annihilated.  They will be made whole. The vision is one of restoration, transformation, and reinstallation of the first creation, where as Isaiah puts it, “the lion will lie down with the lamb.”

Theological Vision 2: New Humanity (Ephesians Moment; James 3.9, Revelation 7.9)

What unites us together, as Christians, as humans?  Anthropologists use categories like “culture” to describe the threads which define essential humanity.  This is good.  But the revelation gives us categories like “new humanity,” in which we can find a common sense of personhood while still making room for our unique expressions and responses to God’s work in our lives.

Theological Vision 3: Good Samaritan, Genesis 50

The Good Samaritan serves as far greater than a moral example.  It is a vision of what can spring forth from an equipped and full heart. It is Christ’s compassionate heart, which ultimately reflects the heart of Israel’s God who “transformed what was meant for evil into the salvation for many.”

Theological Vision 4: Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25; Isaiah 1.17; Luke 4)

In a theological vision, “Community Service” and “My Good Deed for the Day” get transformed from moralistic codes into a lifestyle that binds up the broken hearted, unwittingly visits with God himself, and wisely rebukes oppressors.

Theological Vision 5: Hospitality and Equity (Leviticus 19.34; 1 Peter 2.11-12; 2 Corinthians 8.13)

Equity replaces Equality when we recognize that every person has their own unique sets of skills and needs.   We long not to make others feel taken advantage of but that others might have what they need.  Justice gets redefined from retribution to the situation where each person can fulfill their unique life calling for the sake of the community.