Hole in the Gospel
What role should the Christian play in social justice?
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor at Renovation Church.
Hope you had a great 4th of July!
We had a great time last night taking the kids to see the fireworks
On the 4th of July, we’re celebrating our independence…from Britain…and independence…from the British Monarchy.
King George the III, to be exact.
Today…we’re going to look at an entirely different kind of monarchy and king…the first King of Israel in the Bible…Saul.
And today we’re going to see the first actions of the Israelite Monarchy.
If you’ve been away the last number of weeks, we’ve seen the prophet Samuel anoint Saul as the first king of Israel.
And now, Saul is going to have to face his first task and difficulty as king.
Just as a preface, 1 Samuel is indeed going to turn a bit violent now.
Which is precisely why we had Dr. Clark come in last week and cover the topic of “Why is the Bible so violent?”
If you didn’t hear his message on how God deals with evil, be sure to check it out online or on your app.
Let’s take a look at today’s chapter in 1 Samuel
We’re going to be studying chapter 11 today.
(1 Samuel 11:1-15) – NIV
Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh Gilead (an Israelite town). And all the men of Jabesh said to him, “Make a treaty with us, and we will be subject to you.” 2 But Nahash the Ammonite replied, “I will make a treaty with you only on the condition that I gouge out the right eye of every one of you and so bring disgrace on all Israel.” 3 The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days so we can send messengers throughout Israel; if no one comes to rescue us, we will surrender to you.” 4 When the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and reported these terms to the people, they all wept aloud. 5 Just then Saul was returning from the fields, behind his oxen, and he asked, “What is wrong with everyone? Why are they weeping?” Then they repeated to him what the men of Jabesh had said. 6 When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger. 7 He took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, proclaiming, “This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel.” Then the terror of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out together as one. 8 When Saul mustered them at Bezek, the men of Israel numbered three hundred thousand and those of Judah thirty thousand. 9 They told the messengers who had come, “Say to the men of Jabesh Gilead, ‘By the time the sun is hot tomorrow, you will be rescued.’” When the messengers went and reported this to the men of Jabesh, they were elated. 10 They said to the Ammonites, “Tomorrow we will surrender to you, and you can do to us whatever you like.” 11 The next day Saul separated his men into three divisions; during the last watch of the night they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and slaughtered them until the heat of the day. Those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together. 12 The people then said to Samuel, “Who was it that asked, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Turn these men over to us so that we may put them to death.” 13 But Saul said, “No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel.” 14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” 15 So all the people went to Gilgal and made Saul king in the presence of the Lord. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.
So, we just read a story that contained many city locations.
I’ve been waiting for this day for a while now in 1 Samuel, but it’s time for a map! J
(Show 1 Samuel 11 Map)
So, the people of Jabesh Gilead, an Israelite town just east of the Jordan, are being attacked by the Ammonites (show both places)
Saul gets word of the attack while he’s in Gibeah, which is west of the Jordan…near Jerusalem, where most of the Israelites live.
Jabesh Gilead is sort of out there by itself.
And the people of Jabesh Gilead are being beaten badly in a battle against the Ammonites.
So the Ammonites propose a treaty where they will stop fighting and destroying the Israelite town…IF…they get to gouge out the right eye of each of the Israelites
Which would not only be humiliating, but would render the men of Jabesh Gilead incapable of being effective fighters.
In those days, one would hold up his shield (and thereby blocking vision from his left eye), and would primarily be fighting with the vision from his right eye.
CHRISTIANS SHOULD DO JUSTICE
And Saul is moved by God to do something about it.
This is certainly a gross injustice…that someone would carry out this evil…to gouge out the eyes of a virtually defenseless people
And so Saul moves, with God’s empowerment (by the way), to carry out justice.
And this brings us to an interesting topic…
It’s one of the benefits of doing verse-by-verse teaching through a book.
It brings you to some topics that you wouldn’t naturally hit on.
And that is the topic of justice.
And what is the Christian’s role in carrying out justice in the world?
When we see injustice, should we be a part of changing it?
Or is that just something we should stay out of? and hope that people can figure out their own problems?
The topic of “Social Justice” is not one that’s often talked about in the American Evangelical church anymore.
It’s seen a tiny resurgence in this century, but for much of the second half of the 20th century, it was virtually a non-existent pursuit of the Evangelical Church.
Which is interesting.
I’m not sure a lot of people know this, but the Evangelical Church (and when I say Evangelical Church…I mean the group of churches that believe in the Bible…that only path to salvation is through faith in Christ)…..it’s not a small group…about 26% of Americans.
But the Evangelical Church was once really good at evangelism AND social justice (that is taking care of the poor, looking out for the rights of the oppressed)
In much of the 1800’s and early 1900’s, it was the EVANGELICAL church that was known for working to abolish slavery, fighting poverty, inequality, establishing adoption agencies, improving schools, and others!
But in the early to mid 1900’s, fundamentalist churches started to say that doing “social justice” was a mark of being too liberal in your theology, so the evangelical churches started to just focus on evangelism and the care of the soul…
while leaving the care of “the body” to other churches.
And that’s a sad thing
Because God cares about social justice.
Because every human being…regardless of who they are…is made in the image of God (genesis tells us)
The Lord cares about everyone.
(Psalm 146:7-9) – NIV
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
8 the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision, has a phenomenal book about all of this called, “The Hole in our Gospel.”
It’s a great explanation of how Evangelicals have a HOLE in carrying out the mission of Christ.
In other words, we don’t care enough for the body…just for the soul.
And that’s a hole in Jesus’ Gospel (his Good News)…in what Jesus came to do.
As a church that’s just 5 years old, I will readily admit that we aren’t great at this. Maybe in the future, we will be. I certainly hope we will.
I think our House Groups partnership with Kinship, an organization that works with at risk kids, is a good step.
But there are plenty of more steps to take.
And as we take them, please don’t just wait for us.
Start moving on your own.
The “church” isn’t just an organization, it’s a collection of INDIVIDUALS carrying out God’s heart and mission.
And the reality is that many of us as individuals have neglected much of God’s heart in carrying out justice and mercy to those in need.
And you can see that heart in this passage.
God cares about the people of Jabesh Gilead that are being tortured by the Ammonites.
And God cares about the injustice being done in this world today.
God cares about modern-day slavery and trafficking
God cares about abortion…and poverty…and racism
BUT I HAVE MY OWN PROBLEMS!
But do we care?
Do we have God’s heart for the hurting, the vulnerable, and oppressed?
What would you do today if one of the messengers from Jabesh Gilead arrived at your door asking for help?
Would you help? Or just shut the door and say, “That’s their problem! I’ve got enough problems of my own!”
Let’s think about what’s happening in the passage here.
The people of Jabesh Gilead had sent messengers to all of Israel and nothing likely happens right away.
We know that the people of Jabesh Gilead aren’t banking on being rescued because this is a last-ditch effort.
They even give the Ammonites a timeline for eye-gouging to begin.
And they’re assumptions are right…because no one responds until Saul gets word of it.
Sure people were sad about it…but no one RESPONDS until Saul gets word of it.
Hear that word today.
It’s one thing to be sad about injustice…it’s a different thing entirely to do something about it
Most of the people aren’t responding or helping because people don’t naturally want to sacrifice their own comfort and safety for other people.
In fact, you can see this in that it takes Saul threatening everyone with a cut up oxen (like the Godfather) to actually get them to come out and fight with him.
Listen, we know that people are suffering all around us.
I don’t think awareness is really an issue in our media-driven world.
The question is: What are we personally going to do about it?
And we can’t avoid helping people simply because we “have our own problems”
That’s not a valid excuse
Saul and the Israelites had their own problems too!
In fact, let’s put up the map again.
(1 Samuel Map)
See, the bulk of the Israelites that Saul is trying to rally to fight, were currently being plagued by Philistines on the Western front (something we’ll read about in subsequent chapters)
In other words, they’ve got their own problems already!
And they’re supposed to give up that fight…risk their own side of the border…and go save these people out in Timbuktu?
Let me give you a modern-day example of this.
In the summer of 1994, the people of the Hutu tribe massacred the people of the Tutsi tribe (simply because they were considered an inferior ethnicity) in the Rwandan Genocide.
And roughly One Million people were murdered in 100 days. 1 Million.
If you’ve never seen the movie Hotel Rwanda, a telling of this story, watch it this week.
We actually got to see THE Hotel Rwanda (and go inside) when we were there last summer.
But we also went to the Rwandan Genocide Memorial.
Which was both a haunting and powerful experience.
And the thing that haunted me most…besides the pictures of all the young children that were massacred…was a quote from an angry United Nations expert.
He said, something to the following, “Almost all of the murders were not carried out with guns…the genocidal murderers simply had machetes. A million lives could have been saved if just one nation, any nation, or even the U.N., would have come in…and even with just a few hundred marines with machine guns, they could have ended the disaster quickly.”
But yet…no one came.
And a million innocent people died.
But this isn’t just a passage about war.
While there certainly is just war (coming into save people Rwanda would have been one…saving the Jews in WWII is of course another), most of the wars in history are far from just.
This isn’t just a passage about war, it’s a passage about justice. About rescue.
Up until this point…we’ve mostly been talking about giving justice to those who are powerless and being oppressed…
This might apply to the unborn…or the enslaved or modern day.
But what about those who are suffering, but it’s partly from their own mistakes?
Let’s take poverty for example.
Now, before you hear me incorrectly, poverty isn’t just a result of a person’s mistakes.
In fact, in most of the world, it has nothing to do with that.
But…sometimes…it can be.
Bad decisions, addictions, lack of effort and planning, poor life choices can all lead to poverty.
But even in those cases…
Even in cases were people are suffering (in any way) because of something THEY did…aren’t they still worthy of help?
And here’s where our obscure chapter today…that I’d be willing to bet you’ve never heard a message on in your life….gets really interesting…
Back in Judges 19-21, which is also likely a passage you’ve never heard preached on, a Levite’s concubine is brutally raped and murdered while spending the night in a town of Benjamin.
Out of desperation (I would guess…psychotic desperation here), the Levite dismembers his concubine’s body and sends the pieces to the tribes of Israel…calling them to action against the people of Benjamin
All the tribes of Israel then join in battle to avenge the horrible actions of the Benjamites.
Except…the men of one particular town
Care to guess which town? The men of Jabesh Gilead.
The Israelites were not happy, and the reprisals were severe against the people of Jabesh Gilead.
And now, a few generations later, the people of Jabesh Gilead, the same people who didn’t help the rest of the Israelites when they wanted help….are calling for help.
This is part of the reason that the people of Jabesh Gilead have little reason to hope that anyone will rescue them.
Who cares about them anyway?
Who cares about them? It’s probably their fault they got into this mess!
Who cares about them??
God does. And so should His people.
And God moves in Saul’s heart to rescue the people of Jabesh Gilead.
This is what ought to make Christianity so different from the world.
The world writes people off so quickly.
One mistake and they’re in the doghouse forever.
Christianity says, “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. God loves you, so I will love you. And I will look out for you”
I will help you…even if you are suffering…even if the world doesn’t care about you.
2 years ago, I read a fascinating book called, “The Rise of Christianity” by Rodney Stark.
It’s not a Christian book, it’s a sociological book, about Christianity.
And its basic premise is that Christianity exploded in growth in the first few centuries because Christians were the only ones who were willing to:
Care for the dying during the plagues
Elevate the status of women
And save all of the female babies that were being aborted or left out in the gutters
Its premise is that Christianity exploded, not just because of its convincing evangelism to the soul, but because of its unprecedented care of the body.
Which attracted people to Jesus.
But how much of this would you say is on your radar?
Or, what does the reality that people are suffering do to your heart?
Does it do anything?
Is God stirring his heart in you at all?
Because oppression and suffering stirs God’s heart!
One of the most interesting verses of the passage is verse 6
(1 Samuel 11:6) - NIV
6 When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger.
The spirit of God came upon Saul….AND MADE HIM ANGRY!!
God was angry about what was going to happen to his people…and he made Saul ANGRY about injustice.
Are you, as a Christian, angry about injustice?
Does it bother you that over 1 million babies are aborted every year in the United States?
Over 20 million babies worldwide.
21% of every pregnancy in the U.S. ends in abortion.
Does it bother you that almost 30 million people are in slavery today?
78% of them for forced labor, the 22% for sex trafficking.
Does it bother you that nearly half the world’s population lives on less than $3.50 a day?
80% of the world’s population lives on less than $10/day (that’s a salary of about $3,500…I’m being generous with my math)
Almost a billion people worldwide still don’t have access to clean water…and almost a billion people do not have enough food to eat every day.
It’s a hurting world, and we need to do something about it.
Each of us.
Otherwise there is a hole in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It’s not enough to just be aware
It’s not enough to just feel bad.
And it’s not even enough to just pray about it.
What if Saul would have gathered the people of Gibeah and said, “Hey guys, what’s happening to the people of Jabesh Gilead is really unfortunate, but we don’t want to risk any of our own comfort in helping them, but we should certainly have a prayer meeting!”
FOLLOW GOD’S HEART AND HE WILL EMPOWER YOU
And you don’t need to be some 45 year-old CEO to do something about this.
A few months ago, I was listening to the Family Life Today podcast, and they were interviewing Katie Davis, who wrote the New York Times bestselling book, “Kisses from Katie”
It chronicles her young life…
She was just a normal 18 year old kid from Nashville, but after a short-term missions trip, felt called to move to Uganda.
In just a few years, she had started an organization that now sponsors food and education for 700 children….and she adopted 13 children herself!
She was nobody special, but her God was.
And she followed Him relentlessly.
And you don’t have to go overseas to serve people who are in need either.
Start with the little things.
Like, there are a couple of people I know in the past few years, some in our own church, who’ve taken people into their home…who’ve needed help.
You can do that.
Others have started volunteering to serve people less fortunate than themselves…whether that’s with Kinship to mentor kids…or a homeless shelter in Minneapolis.
You can do that.
Or Sponsor a hungry child through a great organization like World Vision or Compassion International.
You can do that.
Many of you in this church…have gone with us overseas.
We’ve spent a lot of time serving the orphans of Haiti over the last few years.
You can do that!
It’ll involve sacrifice.
Just like it did for the people who left their homes to fight for the oppressed people of Jabesh Gilead.
It’s easy to say, “I could go serve orphans in Haiti, but I have kids of my own…”
But that’s not the heart of Christ.
The mission isn’t about us.
As I heard one of our people say once, “Send your own kids to Grandpa & Grandpa’s for a week…and go spend some time with some kids who’ve never even spent ONE week…with a mom or dad.”
To serve…IS to risk…IS to sacrifice.
What, after is the example of Christ?
His whole LIFE is about sacrifice!
Do you know what Jesus said in his very first sermon?
(Luke 4:18) – NIV
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
Does your life as a Christian (which means little-Christ)…does it reflect that?
Or is there a hole in your Gospel?
As to where to do it…and how…just follow God’s heart.
Listen for God in this…it’s His heart.
Ask Him where and how you can be used in this way.
We, as believers, ought to be marked by deeds like this.
So if this is a “hole” in your testimony of who Jesus is, make it a regular part of your prayers to ask God how He can use you to serve others.
And when you step forward, God will empower you!
Just like He did Saul
Saul doesn’t do this amazing rescue mission of the oppressed on his own.
Don’t try and start whatever God’s impressing on your heart…on your own!
Saul is led and empowered by the Spirit of God!
Remember our study from chapter 10!
Saul is an anxious and fearful man. He’s afraid of doing big things for God.
This is the same guy who just a little bit ago was hiding in the baggage when he was anointed king!
But when God moves in your heart, He moves!
Pray and ask God what He wants you to do.
We can not settle for just awareness.
Awareness is not enough.
This is one of the great Christian lies of the last 25 years.
We have really educated Christians who are AWARE of everything…but they’re not DOING anything.
So let’s go out and continue to make a difference in this world.
A holistic difference.
Not just soul care…but body care.
But remembering, that it’s not just “body care” either
Because social justice must not be devoid of the spiritual truths about eternity either
Our main task is still to make disciples
We aren’t doing any favors to anyone if we improve their life on earth for a short time and then leave them to suffer in hell for all of eternity.
Justice without Jesus is still injustice.
But justice is a part of the work of Christ.
So let’s carry it out.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.