I do not believe in the redemptive power of social gospel. Salvation does not come through the acts of social and environmental improvements, however important they are. Salvation is ours as we – fragile as we are – trust in Jesus Christ alone, plus nothing and no one else.
Even under the best of circumstances our righteousness, goodness, works of benevolence are no more than ‘filthy garments’. We are incapable of redeeming the world. It will not be us ushering in the Kingdom of God but Jesus Christ, in the words of Daniel the prophet, “without a help of human hands” (Dan. 2:34).
However, once we’ve embraced Christ, the Gospel of Christ becomes a transforming power that changes our society too to a degree we’ve ourselves become changed, making it more bearable and less painful for us to live in the world while we patiently wait “for His great appearing” (Titus 2:13).
For example, when two hundred years ago William Wilberforce, a British politician, saw a huge cognitive dissonance between the claims of the Gospel and the lucrative attractions of slave trade, the Gospel of Jesus empowered him, and a group of his friends, to put an end to the slave trade of his days.
I believe in the necessity of social application and implementation of the Gospel, as I believe in the necessity of the work of healing performed by medical practitioners, although hospitals will never deliver complete healing and restoration into the lives of their patients.
One who has tasted the embrace of Christ will, in the name of Christ, go on embracing others. This is so wonderfully explained by Jesus himself: “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:35.36.)
The formula that links the Gospel of Christ to a social action is a straightforward one: transformed disciples of Christ will keep on transforming others, including our society, however imperfect and incomplete the work and outcome may be.
The truth of the matter is very simple: loved people, love people. And “we love because Jesus first loved us.” (1. John 4:19.) It always works like this.