So I’m reading through Paul Louis Metzger’s book Consuming Jesus, and one of the chapters got me thinking…
Theologically speaking, there is no dichotomy between a passionate "evangelical" spirituality and social action. In fact, biblically speaking, you can’t have one without the other; they go together necessarily. Because
"If any one of you has material possessions and sees a brother or sister
in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in you?" (1 John 3:17)
"If we say we love God yet hate a brother or sister, we are liars. For
if we do not love a fellow believer, whom we have seen, we cannot love
God, whom we have not seen. And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love one another." (1 John 4:20-21)
"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2:14-17)
But that doesn’t mean that all there is to it is the social action part. One can certainly be involved in justice, social action, advocacy for the poor, and be completely disconnected from Jesus Christ. Like Paul says,
"If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing." (1 Cor 13:3)
It’s basically a dichotomy that shouldn’t exist. Without being connected in relationship to Jesus Christ, you can only go "half-way" in advocating for justice, but those who truly are connected to Jesus Christ will find themselves being compelled to serve the poor. Real love for God fuels love for neighbor; you can’t have one without the other.
So what about "spiritualities" that don’t seem to propel those who practice them into greater love for neighbor and concern for the poor? Well, that’s another blog post, but I am thinking what we’ll have to say is that any so-called spirituality that does not result in greater love for God and neighbor is in fact an idolatrous one, where we aren’t actually worshiping God at all, but something else.