The Transforming Power of the Gospel for Society

Written by Ryan Strydom

Recently Marcus highlighted the new social justice initiative that we as a church are embarking on under the banner of Ukwahka Isizwe (Nation Building.)

This is an exciting time. For a long time the church has struggled with the issues of social justice because we have a tendency to go into extremes. Martin Luther’s quote always comes to mind here:

“History,” Luther said, “is like a drunk man on a horse. No sooner does he fall off on the left side does he mount again and fall off on the right.”

We tend to often feel that if we fall off on the one side it’s good and wise to get back on the horse and fall off the other, just to counterbalance things. But that never works. The Christian life is about balance, staying on the horse, and in the issue of social justice it can be tricky to get the balance right.

History has shown that we can either go so extreme with social justice that the message of the Gospel is lost because it becomes all about hand-me-outs, equality, and politics. On the other hand, to counter-balance the loss of the Gospel message, others have backed out completely from social justice and see it as nothing more than giving money to a beggar on the side of the road, and that occasionally.

The power of the Gospel to not only transform me as an individual but also to transform communities, cities, nations and the world is highlighted in two parables of Jesus (amongst many). I quote these because they’re my favourite:

Luke 13: 18 – 20

“Jesus  asked,  “What is the kingdom of God like? To what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the wild birds nested in its branches.”

Again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of flour until all the dough had risen.”

The Kingdom starts with the small but then gets bigger and bigger, until it becomes this wide sprawling tree where all can find rest and peace. It starts with what you and I do every day at our work, how we treat our staff, those that work with us; it starts with how we lead our families, love our children; it starts with how we work together as a community of believers; then it grows, and grows, and grows, little by little but in power and surety, until this entire nation is transformed and then onto the world!

A little yeast works through the whole dough. The yeast is what makes the dough rise. We are the salt of the earth. It’s not just about seeing breakthrough in my own life but also about seeing breakthrough in the lives of others; and then seeing breakthrough and justice come into our justice system, our economic system, our government.

We war not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of this darkness (Eph 6:12, paraphrased). This is not just a scripture that talks about our prayer life and how we should pray, but it’s also talking about our war against the systems of this world.

Our King is a King of righteous justice. The systems of this world aren’t. As the salt of the earth it is part of our Kingdom prerogative to bring the justice of our King and his Kingdom and the age to come into this age – to bring the future Kingdom into the now, by the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s an amazing, awe-inspiring and certainly humbling partnership we’re in with God. And we do it in a number of ways, from praying for healing for individuals to bringing healing to our world.

The pictures of the mustard seed and yeast are beautiful – the Kingdom has an effect on every realm and part of society, and it starts with the little things and snowballs into something bigger and bigger. Our city can be changed because that’s what the power of the Gospel does. Our nation can change because that’s what the power of the Kingdom is all about. This is what God does.

 

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