To what lengths should we go to confront and eradicate evils apparent in our society today? As believers living in Jacksonville, Florida in 2017, how does Jesus want us to engage a world so enamored with sin? Are we fulfilling Jesus’ calling to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matt 5:13-14)?
|Carl F.H. Henry helped found several major|
evangelical organizations, including Fuller
Theological Seminary, Evangelical Theological
Society, and Christianity Today.
In 1947 Carl F.H. Henry gave a lecture that was eventually published as a book titled, “The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism.” This work articulated a core value for Fuller Theological Seminary, which began that year and with whom Henry served as a professor. Henry’s thesis in the book is that the Evangelical (Fundamentalist) church is not doing enough to confront and eradicate the social evils present in the world. When he wrote the book, the world was enraptured in or recovering from horrifying evils such as the Holocaust, World War II, class warfare, unethical labor practices, and slavery. In Henry’s opinion, the Evangelical church wasn’t doing enough to combat these evils.
Why did evangelicals seem to disengage from the social evils of the day? Henry believes it was partially due to the church’s reaction against the Social Gospel movement, which generally did not adhere to the same fundamentals of the faith as theologically conservative evangelicals and tended to focus more on meeting social needs rather than sharing the Gospel and conversions. He writes, “Fundamentalism (Evangelicalism) in revolting against the Social Gospel seemed also to revolt against the Christian social imperative." The Evangelical church overreacted and disengaged from global social work. Thus, Henry wrote to beckon the church back to our rightful place as the leader in righting the evils of their day.
Henry’s work, though written to challenge the Evangelical church in the 1940’s, is applicable to the Evangelical church of 2017. He writes, “It remains a question whether one can be perpetually indifferent to the problems of social justice and international order, and develop a wholesome personal ethic.” Can we really call ourselves followers of Jesus and at the same time remain disengaged with global, social evils like sex trafficking, unfair labor practices, and genocide? Henry states, “A Christianity without a passion to turn the world upside down is not reflective of apostolic Christianity.”
How do we react to a challenge like this? Maybe we should think about what the Bible says about the issue. There is no single answer for everyone that applies to every circumstance. I think we should use the principle, rather, that Jesus outlined in Matthew 5:13-16:
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Where has God given you a platform to reach into the evils of our world in order to be salt and light? Are you willing to follow Him into those dark places and to be a part of experiencing His Kingdom come and will be done on earth as it is in heaven?