This weekend at the CMU Workshop, in the ministers’ forum, we had a discussion about “Social Justice”. We talked about the current movement that seems to focus on social justice without an eternal purpose. It got me to thinking and reading. The campus ministry I led for almost twelve years held a “Welcome Back Picnic” every year where the whole church would turn out to help. It always accomplished two things. We fed over 600 students and we gained a good reputation with the students and the university. Those two things were good and I am glad we accomplished them…But I want you to know: That is NOT why we did it! We always had an eternal purpose in mind. All of our functions, events, programs were measured against this one goal:
To reach the lost for Jesus Christ!
Why? Consider the last thing Jesus said before He ascended into Heaven: “Go into all the world and feed the hungry” or “go into all the world and take care of their physical needs” or “go into all the world and love them”. Right?
NO! He said: “…Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…”
If that is not what we are about then we are nothing more than a glorified social club. Jesus came to this earth to provide a pathway to the Father. He died on a cruel cross to do just that. And He established His Church here on earth to do one thing:
Show lost people the way to the Father!
Now, I know there is a mindset that says; Lynn, even Jesus had compassion on people and healed them and fed them. And that is true – but I think if you look closely at those same places where Jesus fed and healed you will see His real focus. For example, Let’s look at Mark 6:30-44
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
They said to him, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
”How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five-and two fish.”
Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand. (from New International Version)
The Apostles have returned from their time out (You will remember that Jesus had sent them out to preach repentance, drive out demons, and heal the sick. Mark 6:12 & 13.) So here they are with Jesus, telling Him all about it and Jesus takes them out in a boat to get away from the crowds and get some rest. So here is a “Snapshot”: Jesus and His apostles are in a boat landing ashore and Jesus see’s the crowd that has run ahead to catch them. Look at verse 34 “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them,” Hold it right there, This is real important! It says: “He had compassion on them”. The Greek seems to mean that it is “to be moved to the point of pain” or “to have your heart hurt for them”. Jesus see’s these people and His heart Hurts! But Why? What was it about that crowd that generated such “compassion” from our savior? I used to think that Jesus looked at these people and had compassion because they were hungry and poor…etc. But as I looked closer I saw what the verse was saying; “because they were like sheep without a shepherd”. I looked at that and asked myself; What are sheep without a shepherd? Hungry? No, sheep will find food. Their physical needs were not the problem. They were lost! And worse, they were in danger of being devoured!
But – didn’t they have shepherds (the Pharisees)? Well – yes…but they were the ones devouring them. And that’s the very problem we have going on all around us today. People are being led by shepherds who have invented a religion to suit their own desires and they are devouring the flock. They are in desperate need of someone to look on them with “compassion” and that needs to be us! It should hurt us to the point that we are driven to do something. But what? Well, look at what Jesus did when He was moved with compassion. (the end of verse 34) “So HE began teaching them…”
Now the story is going to go further and show His compassion for their physical needs as well by feeding them. But if you focus on the miracle you will miss what Jesus knew their deepest need was. Today, our compassion leads us to first feed them or take care of some physical need and rarely get around to their Spiritual need (and that’s just plain backwards). Jesus knew that their greatest need was God’s Word! Not food. Yes it is true Jesus did go ahead and feed them and that is a neat story: The disciples say: Hey, these people need something to eat…send them home. But look how Jesus answers them; “You give them something to eat.” You see, Jesus knew the food part was easy! Understand, to us it’s a miracle! But to Jesus, It’s just food…it’s no big deal.
The big deal to Jesus was the teaching He gave them. So here’s my point:
The Spiritual needs are more important than the physical needs!
Social justice without an eternal purpose is just self gratification…and that’s just sick.