By Matt Rose
For the past year or so, I’ve become enraptured by the cause of social justice. After all, the Greek word that our Bible translators often render “righteousness” could, in truth, be just as easily rendered “justice.” That brings new meaning to the the verse “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (justice).”
Here I am. I’ve been riding this bandwagon for quite some time – buying t-shirts for To Write Love on Her Arms, putting Invisible Children and The Love Alliance on my “top friends” space. I’m just tickled about all the justice that I’m so aligned with. But does anybody see the problem? I’m not doing anything. James 2:26 rightfully exposes my wrong: “Faith without deeds is dead.”
My heart can hurt for the starving people in the world, the homeless in my city, or even the spiritually dead around me all the time. But there is still no action on my part. I have no reason to feel good about myself for feeling bad about these situations. I’m still removed from them. I’m still in my comfortable house, with my nice cars and nice clothes, with my view of “suffering” being the shortage of chips in the pantry.
And then the next big thing comes my way: the search for truth. If you do any amount of studying, you’ll find that a lot of Christian traditions are pagan (secular in the least, and demonic at worst) in origin. Stained glass: based on the belief that light (and sound) had mystic powers to bring us to an “Eternal Good.”
The light flooding in with all the pretty colors was supposed to free our minds to truly understand the truth of the Bible. The sermon: stemmed from the Greek sophists, a group of orators whose verbal skill and eloquence could affect the emotions of the listeners, even if the speaker didn’t personally believe in what he was saying. You get the idea.
So here I am, gaining more and more knowledge in this quest for the truth. “What are we really supposed to be doing as the Church?” “Why do we have the traditions we have?” But last night, I was allowed to see the fallacy of my thinking. “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40)
Last night, I was struggling with the same anxiety I’ve battled for four years. I had tried to withstand, and I had failed. I had reached the end of my rope again. Frustrated and discouraged, I just began to pray, something I’ve only seemed to do when all else fails lately. In that moment, I felt God say to me: “You seek Me with your mind. Seek Me with your heart.”
And there in the bathroom at church, while everybody else was singing “I Am Free,” I was broken. I wasn’t free. All of the towers I was building for myself through gaining this knowledge were getting me no closer to Heaven. In fact, they were only serving to pull me further from where I needed to be and down a path that leads to death (Proverbs 14:12, Proverbs 16:25).
I left that bathroom changed, and I joined the other believers, worshiping my Savior in a way that I’ve been missing for a long time – without regard for what others might think of me, feeling the peace that is found in His presence, and feeling His unconditional, unending love toward me.
I still believe we need to be active looking for ways to bring social justice to those who are in need (the hungry, the impoverished, the homeless, the orphans and widows, the hopeless, the overlooked of society, the lonely and depressed). But we can’t allow ourselves to think that believing it’s important is the same as doing something about it.
You don’t have to move to Africa. You can talk to the homeless man with love instead of handing him a dollar and running like you’re afraid you’ll catch a disease from mere proximity. You can encourage someone who seems to have no hope. You can volunteer at a soup kitchen. But in all of these pursuits, don’t forget the One that has given us the commission to share His love.
As for knowledge, I still think it’s important to search the Scriptures, to find what is truly significant and what is man’s tradition – to put it all in its proper perspective and even discard what is no longer needed. But remember that we don’t find our life in learning about God. We find our life as we abide in Him (see John 15:1-17), as we take time with Him to just be. We always try to be something special. How often do we allow ourselves to seek God and just be, knowing we can’t make ourselves any better in His sight? I was in the shower yesterday, and again I felt God say to me: “You come to Me with requests, but why don’t you come to Me just to be with Me?”
Let’s take time to just be. Let’s come with our heart and not with our head. Let’s show love to the broken, but let’s never forget the One who died to save us all.
Matt lives in South Carolina with his wife, Michelle, and daughter, Charis. He has a passion for authentic relationships and true, heartfelt worship.