Are social issues and causes something the church should be involved in?
Whether a church should be involved with social issues has been widely debated. Some claim that getting involved in social issues is sinful, while others argue that to not be involved is sin. What does the Bible teach?
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First, the Bible is clear Christians are called to live as helpful citizens. Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2:13-25 both describe the Christian calling to live as law-abiding and government respecting citizens. First Peter 2:13-15 especially notes, "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people." A Christian who lives as a good citizen honors God and attracts others to the message of Jesus.
Second, the Bible offers examples of godly people speaking against the evil actions in their society. A powerful example is found in John the Baptist. He spoke out against the immoral marriage of Herod. Matthew 14:3-4 records, "For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because John had been saying to him, 'It is not lawful for you to have her.'" There are times when God may call a believer to speak out against sin in society. These times may also lead to intense persecution.
Third, the Bible offers times when believers must get involved in social issues. One example is when government will not allow Christians to worship Christ. In Acts 4:19-20 Peter and John answered the Sanhedrin's charge not to speak in the name of Christ, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." Daniel acted in civil disobedience when the king made it law not to pray to any god other than the king for 30 days (Daniel 6). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego broke the law when they refused to bow to an idol. God miraculously saved them from the death penalty in a fiery furnace (Daniel 3).
In addition to these principles, much freedom is presented regarding church involvement in social issues. The Bible commands believers to be a voice for the voiceless (Proverbs 31:8), but does not specify the details regarding when and how this is to take place. In most issues, each congregation must prayerfully determine which issues to address and in what ways to address them. The truth of the Gospel should not be overshadowed by social activism. However, neither should godly care for others be neglected.
An ongoing example is the issue of religious freedom. Many die for their faith in Christ each year around the world. While the Bible does not command particular details regarding how each church be involved in helping persecuted believers, it is clear the church should care about persecuted Christians and help however possible. Poverty is another important issue. Christians and the church are called to care for the poor, yet much variety can be applied in doing so, whether locally or globally.
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