Compassion, Justice and The Gospel
why gospel conversations are needed for the well-being of our cities!
Many churches and gospel city movements are tackling urban issues with prayer and well-being initiatives (reading tutors for at-risk children, creating jobs, rescuing women from sex-slavery, creating new families from foster care to adoption). Yet, an increasing number of leaders have seen the need to bring good and effective evangelism thought, tools and motivation into city movements. There is a need to engage in polite, wise, conversational evangelism while we rub shoulders with others who pursue well-being issues with us. Our gospel city movements must be faithful to both good works and good news, between showing and telling the gospel.
As our culture becomes distant from its Judeo-Christian roots, old forms of evangelism can create an obstacle to the gospel. We should be aware that most of our information seems irrelevant to a postmodern-background non-believer. And, sadly, too many Christians have lost their vision to share the Gospel for fear of being labeled narrow-minded and out-of-date.
If evangelism is to play the major role that Jesus has assigned it to play, we will have to, as leaders, pay attention to these things: 1) Motivation; 2) Equipping people to be confident; 3) Sensitivity to the cultural realities of our day; 4) Having tools that help people find and know Jesus.
Words and concepts that center and motivate gospel movements today are words like: well-being, unity, justice and compassion. As I‘ve studied these words in the Bible, new motivation has revived me. I’ve been aligned & corrected as well.
Let’s look at two passages.
1 The first has to do with the works and compassion of Jesus. John 2:11 and John 20:30, 31 are bookends. They suggest that signs – miracles and all works of compassion, love, justice and ministry in general – done in the name of Jesus Christ are for three purposes: 1) To show the splendor of Jesus, 2) That others “may believe Jesus is the Christ, the son of God” and 3) That, in “believing, all might find life in His name.” The life and well-being we seek for all in our cities hinges on their relationship to the Gospel, and on us both telling and demonstrating the Gospel in everything we do.
The end of all prayers, works and aims is that others may know Jesus intimately and follow Him in glad surrender! So, in compassionate ministry we are to manifest something about Jesus. In other words; we lift Jesus up and share how He changed us – we openly share His Gospel.
2 The second passage has to do with justice. In Jeremiah, God exhorts us to execute justice very strongly. Here are some examples: Jer 21:12: “O house of David, thus says the Lord: ‘Administer justice every morning; And deliver the person who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor, that My wrath may not go forth like fire and burn with none to extinguish it, because of the evil of their deeds.’” Jer 22:3: “Thus says the Lord, ‘Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor…’”
Justice here seems to be the protection of the weaker members of society from oppression by those more powerful. These are strong words against oppressing the weak and marginalized. Certainly I have never felt like an oppressor, but Jeremiah brings a heightened look at what it means to oppress.
An oppressor is anyone who exercises their power in either a cruel or neglectful way – causing people around them to be pushed down or remain down, preventing them from a life that flourishes.
Justice in this case implies that those entrusted with resources and means must protect the weak and marginalized from wrong, delivering them from whoever or whatever oppresses them.
As followers of Christ, we are people of resources and means. We have the Holy Spirit inside us. We’ve been seated with Christ in the heavens and entrusted with the Gospel. It is incumbent upon us to engage all marginalized, including those bound and blinded by Satan and under the wrath of God, not yet set free from sin and shame by the Gospel. If Satan is the greatest oppressor, we are bound to set people free with the truth of the Gospel. See John 8:31-47.
There are millions of people in our cities that walk in shame, experience the pain of rejection, have no hope and feel unloved. They don’t know how much their Creator loves them and what God has done for them to forgive, relieve and restore them. They don’t know the life of peace, fullness and community that Jesus died to give them.
The greatest injustice ever known to mankind will be when the Church was reticent to share the Gospel and work to transfer people out of darkness, idolatry and bondage to a spiritual enemy.
We must extend the ministry of Jesus to all in the city – that all be made new, being changed by Jesus, and that life in the city would be renewed! By His grace and in the power of His Spirit we advance His mission: to preach the gospel, to mend the brokenhearted, to comfort those who mourn and renew cities (see Isaiah 61:1-11). Jesus quoted from this passage in His first sermon (see Luke 4:14-18). By turning to this passage, Jesus shows us what is at the heart of His ministry. It’s as though this passage in Isaiah reveals the job description of the Messiah. In studying it we come to one key conclusion: Jesus wants to radically change people from head to toe. Look at Isaiah 61:1-4.
In Old Testament society, when grief was unbearable, people threw ashes on their heads. Jesus wants to replace dark ashes with jewels; to adorn us with a crown of beauty! Oils were poured all over the body on special occasions. The oil of gladness reflects a good mood (Ps 45:7) – and it was forbidden to be used in times of public grief (see 2 Samuel 14:2). Clothes that expressed joy replaced the heavy burden of a depressed soul. This picture shows that when Jesus changes a life, everything changes!
The job of an ambassador of Christ is to show the world the Savior, and that His ways and truth help us discover a better way to live. Let’s be reminded as the Body of Christ that we are His temple, the actual presence of God in this world, to let Jesus minister through us, as He did while on earth Himself – and be His ambassadors and witnesses (2 Corinthians 5:18-21, Acts 1:8, John 15:26, 27).
Our prayer is that the following Bible study will help renew your motivation for the proclamation side of the mission of Jesus.
The job of an ambassador of Christ is to show the world the Savior and that His ways and truth help us discover a better way to live! Let’s be reminded as the Body of Christ that we are His temple, the actual presence of God in this world, to let Jesus minister through us, as He did while on earth Himself – and be His ambassadors and witnesses (2 Cor. 5:18-21, Acts 1:8, John 15:26, 27).
- Read the following passages and make observations regarding the need for proclamation of the Gospel. What do these verses say about sharing the Gospel? Share your insights with others in your group.
- Compare John 10:16 and John 17:20-24
- Romans 10:9-17
- Compare Acts 4:4, 12 with Isaiah 45:22
- I John 1:1-4
- Galatians 1:3 and Colossians 1:13
- 1 Corinthians 15:1, 2
- 2 Corinthians 2:1-5
- Ephesians 1:13
- Colossians 1:5, 6
- Revelation 5:9, 10
- What are the purposes of all works in John 20:30, 31? What kind of life is found in Jesus?
- What is the aim of our unity in Acts 15:9, 11, 14, 17?
- What is true of those who are living without Christ?
- Acts 26:15-18
- Romans 3:9-19
- Romans 8:7, 8
- 1 Corinthians 2:14
- Ephesians 2:3-5
- Ephesians 4:17, 18
- What is the attitude of the laborer of Christ in these passages? Romans 1:14-17; 1 Corinthians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:4, 8
- Mark 4:1-12; Matthew 13:1-23. What are the implications of Matthew 13:18?
- What it true of those who oppose the proclamation of the Gospel in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16?
- What do you notice about God’s heart in Isaiah 45:22? Finish this sentence – “To enjoy life as it is meant to be enjoyed, …
- What does mankind, the entire human race, need according to 1 Timothy 2:5, 6? See 2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9 also.