To Preach On Social Issues… (Acts 4:12)

…one might presuppose all issues are social. Everything we think, feel and do effects everyone else. A butterfly beats its wings in China and, well, you know the end of that one. Social issues are neither green, nor red nor black, though the persons we indict or excuse may be green, or red or black.

   So, every "issue" is social, as it is spiritual and we may err more often in dividing the "social" from the "spiritual," as though we can differentiate between the two. If I pollute the planet, you may starve or drink bad water. This is quite a poor "witness." If I live my life so that you may have decent living conditions but forget to mention there is a heaven to gain, this is even poorer socialization, for we will live longer in "eternity" than in time.

   So it is that in a very social setting (a court of religious law), Peter and John answer a deeply spiritual question (Acts 4:7) about authority (another social question) in light of a healing/strengthening miracle (Acts 3:1f; a very social act). Their answer is taken as purely spiritual, one supposes, and it is spiritual, but it is social as well.

   Follow now.

   To preach on social issues, one must implicitly and explicitly offer grace. Grace is not mercy. Mercy occurs when we do not get what we deserve. Grace occurs when we get what we do not deserve and it is something good.

   We may decry the anti-god agenda (we do and should) but we cannot actually "preach" on such a subject without making the offer of grace. In his answer to the religious authorities of his day/time/genre, Peter offers salvation in the name of Jesus the Christ which seems exclusive, since Peter is a religious monogamist. He does, however, offer salvation, to the very crowd guilty of the all too recent ritual murder of the aforementioned Savior-Lord.

   Surely, this is grace.

   To offer spiritual admonition, then, on a "social" issue, requires grace proffered to the most intimately involved "sinner," if we are to follow the Biblical example. Preach in opposition to something; offer grace, lest we miss the mark.

   To preach on "social issues," do more than offer the pragmatic answer. Pragmatism is misunderstood, applied most errantly when one substitutes a momentary proposition in place of an eternal ideal.

   God loves people who miss the mark. To miss the mark, however, is not the eternal ideal. Peter asks the justices to tell him how it is they will judge him. Will it be on the healing/strengthening miracle of the lame beggar? Is it wrong to do good for him? If it is right to help him, why do they not help him, if they have the power?

    It is now still in the courtroom; quiet, not the kind of quiet that bespeaks serenity but the kind of quiet where one person in the right has just a moment in time to offer the best possible answer to a social/spiritual question.

   Peter holds out Jesus to the crowd. If you want to know God's ideal, he seems to say, look at Jesus.

   Peter says, judge the act or judge the name in which we accomplish the act, but here you go. If you want to know what God wants in all this business, look at Jesus.

   Understand, Jesus, the Christ, is the absolute embodiment of God in the form of a man, all the power of the godhead dwelling bodily in a man, Col. 2:9. Whatever God wants to say, God says in Jesus. Whatever God wants to do, God does in Jesus. Jesus is God's ideal.

   The answer to the question, "What Would God Want?" is very simply, "Look What Jesus Did."

   If God thinks something is important, it is in the life, example, motion, death, burial, teaching, healing, feeding, ministry of Jesus, the Christ. To preach on a "social issue," pro or con, one must hold out the ideal.

   To preach on "social issues," one puts down the temptation (sinful tendency) to pander to local prejudices, individual or corporate. God is neither mocked nor made. That is, God lives, moves, enjoys existence and looms over time, quite apart from human preference. As much as we all want affirmation (unconditional approval), we are doubtless as much in need of reproof leading to a happy, wholesome, healthy life.

   Peter does mention the moral failure of the justices in regards to Jesus, the cornerstone rejected by men who need to build aright. Peter, thankfully, does not stop there, but offers gracious correction pointing to spiritual monogamy. If you are going to get what you need, friends, he says, you have to get what you need from the One you killed. Good news; He is alive and ready to help.

  

2 thoughts on “To Preach On Social Issues… (Acts 4:12)”

  1. you say in an eerily similar vein to my granpa Charlie,
    “Preach in opposition to something; offer grace, lest we miss the mark”
    He probably said it more like ‘stick to your guns, kiddo, but don’t shoot the other guy if you don’t have to ’cause you might be wrong.’ We were just laymen of course so preaching was something we just did at each other.
    He came from a group of people who lived in two centuries, and some of his group might have made it to three. One thing I remember he said quite often was in reference to other faiths, “I will leave their condemnation to the preacher cause I might be wrong!”

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