Years ago, I had the idea that we in Christianity were not only not obligated to help make this world a better place, but that it was counter-productive to our goals. Sounds crazy, right? Well, let me explain how I got to that conclusion.
I believed that social engagement would make this world a better place. But our purpose as Christians is to get to heaven and take as many people with us as we can, right? So the better this world is, the less likely people will want to hear a sales pitch about escaping it.
As (admittedly) stupid as this conclusion was, you have to admit it was logical. If heaven is the point of believing in Jesus, then we absolutely should not be a force for improving this world.
It wasn’t until I began to understand that ‘getting to heaven’ was a dumb goal that I started to reassess my thoughts on social involvement.
Only once I started to see that Jesus gave us the exact opposite goal - bringing heaven to earth - did I realize that being a force for good in this world was not only acceptable, it was actually mandatory.
I noticed 1 Peter 2:12: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”
It seems to me like God wants us to give Him a good name. God knows that how people view Him will depend on what they see coming out of the people who claim to know him, love him and follow him. Doesn’t seem fair that God has put himself in a position to be judged based on dumb stuff I do, does it? But God knows that’s how it’s going to work.
Churches can focus very hard on trying to get people saved, to get them into Sunday School. What if a church focused on being such a benefit, such a blessing to the community that people thought more highly of them? So that, perhaps, they will think more highly of God?
The old viewpoint I had on working to improve the world around us was, “aren’t we just making this life more comfortable, when in reality the hardships of the this life will force them to turn to God?”
But that doesn’t seem to be God’s approach. He made Abraham a vehicle of blessing. Jesus welcomed and accepted the “disreputable sinners” who came to him seeking a relationship.
At the end of the Bible, we see that God has created peace and unity in the renewal of the earth. Our job is to reveal God’s overall plan by working to accomplish it in the communities where we live and worship. How can people know what God wants to accomplish if we don’t put it on display as much as possible?
This is a value of social engagement: that, like Jesus, we do the things we see the Father do (John 5:19): restoring the world, providing avenues of blessing, and accepting the outcast.
That we would introduce people to the kingdom of God by spreading it here on earth as far an as wide as we can - indeed, as Jesus commands - to the ends of the earth.