The social justice winds are blowing through evangelicalism. Today, the culture is making demands upon the church of Jesus Christ and sadly, some leaders are willing to cave to such cultural pressures in order to appear successful. What’s even more troubling is such success is being equated with biblical fidelity. In an age where the culture is leveraging specific agendas like #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, and “gay Christianity” against the church, certain leaders begin to use the controversies as an opportunity for success. Suddenly, pulpits are opened for women, “multiethnic” becomes a marketing tagline, and inclusive language is modeled within evangelical circles. What did Paul do when the Jews demanded signs and the Greeks sought wisdom? Did he cave to cultural pressures?
The cultural pressures that we experience today are nothing new. They have been pressed upon the church in various ages before—but although history repeats itself, those who live within such repetitions of history only have one opportunity to take the right turn and stand boldly upon the gospel. Paul was a man who faced immense pressures to compromise. When the Jews demanded signs, he could have given in and become a hero among the Jews. When the Greeks were seeking wisdom, he could have used his brilliant mind and eloquent tongue to satisfy their intellectual cravings. But, Paul did not bow to the massive cultural pressures. Instead, he preached the simple message of the cross which the Jews despised and the Greeks considered to be utter folly.
Paul wrote these words to the church at Corinth:
The culture is demanding activism from the church and a form of social justice that does not square with the biblical justice found in Scripture. Such cultural demands produces division rather than unity and they never fully satisfy the cravings of the culture. Today’s evangelical culture is filled with leaders who are repenting of their “whiteness” and suggesting that they had not fully understood nor preached the true gospel until they had become “woke” in their understanding of the gospel. Should we partner with women who teach deficient theology in order to satisfy the perception of the masses? If we open the doors to “gay Christianity” what about those who practice polygamy? The cultural cravings can never be satisfied through cultural messages. That’s why Paul pointed the church at Corinth to the sufficient gospel of Jesus and encouraged them to stand firm on the gospel under such cultural pressures.
The Greeks sought a philosophical worldview that satisfied their intellectual cravings and answered their complex questions about how to live a life of success. They needed answers to the perplexities of life and the silly message of a Jewish man dying a brutal death on a Roman cross was insufficient. They demanded more. They laughed at the gospel. Paul maintained his position on the cross and refused to compromise even in the slightest degree. He was confident that the message of the cross was the sufficient message to save Jews and Gentiles, bond and free, male and female and bring them into unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.
Today, when we have so many competing voices who are self-proclaimed experts on the latest social trends and are demanding that we employ the social justice model of ministry in order to reach a lost culture and bring unity among God’s people—we must not forget Paul’s message to the church at Corinth. If we cave to the social justice pressures—the message of the cross will be abandoned and the church will not be unified. Meanwhile—the culture will not be saved by social justice.
Rather than giving the people what they wanted, Paul gave the people what they needed. Will you and your church be satisfied with peddling the message of social justice while the lost are perishing? Will you continue to employ messages that are divisive and destructive within the body of Christ or will you simply stand firm without compromise upon the gospel of Jesus Christ?
It pleases God to save sinners through the gospel.It pleases God to unify his church through the gospel. Why would we want anything else? Remember Paul and his message to the church in Corinth when you hear the cultural pressures of the world demanding something other than the gospel.