Social Responsibility in a Secular World

The mission which Jesus imparted to the church, which was sounded in the Gospels and echoed through the ages, has been the Great Commission to evangelize the lost, baptize the converted, and teach the disciples (Matt 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8).  Observing the habits of Jesus throughout his earthly ministry has led many to aspire to provide physical relief to the hurting in society (Matt 9:35; Mar 6:56; Act 10:38).  Ryrie posed the question, “What is the relation of the Christian’s social responsibility to the gospel?[1]  The sour events of life have redemptive value (Rom 8:28), but the level of priority for ministry efforts must be discerned with appropriate emphasis placed as Christians seek to follow the example of Christ.

Social ethics is relevant because it’s a biblical teaching, and moral belief and behavior as still associated as having been derived from religious perspectives.[2]  Many Christians have become content with advocacy alone rather than action.  The social concern among “Establishment Evangelicals” of the 1970s was derided because their social involvement was “often merely an offering of pious words rather than a demonstration of prophetic action.[3]

Discerning the catalyst to society’s ills requires theological focus.  Social issues are the fruit of rebellion against God (Deu 8:1-20; Isa 1:4-20), but while society’s cultural curators advocate actively their positions there are many Christians who have opted for a passive role, losing their prophetic voice, and keeping their convictions concealed.  Isolated in their contentment with their convictions, Christians keep silence while the Word of God demands a voice.  Merely holding to convictions will not do.  Christians must take their biblical beliefs further by demonstrating gospel-centered behavior to counter the issues at hand.  Platt avowed that, “We [Christians] need our eyes opened to the implications of the gospel for how we live.”[4]  The gospel must impact the identity and culture of Christians, and it must also have an effect upon the world around them.  Churches can become a cultural resource for needy society because doing good to all men displays the love of God (Matt 5:16; Eph 2:10).  Christians must display practically the goodness of God so that the Father is glorified and so people will come to repentance (Rom 2:4).  God’s great desire for humanity is “to bring forth an immense community of people from ‘every nation and tribe and tongue and people’ to worship him (Revelation 14:6).”[5]  Salvation being the ultimate goal, spiritual needs remain the priority.  Although Jesus healed many, he did not heal everyone.  Though Jesus fed the multitudes, he did not feed everyone.  Jesus’s obedience to government did not lead him to reform its focus on social justice.  Jesus was not insensitive to the physical needs of others, but he did keep his spiritual mission in sharp focus (Luke 19:10). Therefore, Christians must seek to display the goodness of God by providing aid with the aim of leading them to salvation in Christ.

[1] C. C. Ryrie, The Christian and Social Responsibility (Chicago, IL: 1982), 10.

[2] R. Gill, Christian Ethics in Secular Worlds (New York: 1991), 97.

[3] Ryrie, The Christian and Social Responsibility, 14.

[4] David Platt, Counter Culture, (Wheaton, IL, 2015), 25.

[5] D. Willard, and D. Simpson, Revolution of Character: Discovering Christ’s Pattern for Spiritual Transformation (Colorado Springs, CO: 2005), 173.

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