For at least a century, the Protestant church has had basically two options: you could be all about Jesus or all about Justice. Not surprisingly, the two sides were suspicious of the other for not being true Christians. While there were all sorts of nuances within each “camp”, the divide was so wide and real that it was pretty easy to just refer to the justice first people as “liberals” and the Jesus first people as “conservatives.” The devil himself couldn’t have created a better scheme to compromise the Church’s message of good news and render it quite ineffectual in the world God loves.

The “conservatives” put most of their emphasis on what Jesus did for us to forgive us our sins and reunite us with God so we can live forever in heaven. The “liberals” put their emphasis on what we must do, as followers of Christ, to make this earth a better place right now. As I reread what I just wrote, an image of God being completely bald from pulling their hair out popped into my head.

At this point in my understanding of scripture, of God, of the world and of us, I can’t imagine anything more ridiculous than telling people they basically have to choose one or the other. Either tell people they are going to hell unless they get saved and can go to heaven or help people out of their living hell here on earth.

There was a time as a “conservative” when I wasn’t thrilled about a passage in the book of James that makes it about as clear as possible that the good news is and can only be a both-and, not an either/or.

James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”

This has always been true, and there’s no time like the present to actively integrate what we believe about Jesus with how we will act like Jesus in the world. One without the other is not good news at all.

Nothing but love;
Mark