I cannot easily dismiss the fact that at times I am a social justice Pharisee.
I have provided food to the hungry.
I have opened my home to the homeless.
I have given coats to those without adequate clothing.
I have befriended those frequently forgotten from foreign lands.
I have found myself not so different from those whom Jesus rebuked:
“Take care! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give a gift to someone in need, don’t shout about it as the hypocrites do — blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I assure you, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone, don’t tell your left hand what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in secret, and your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you.
As I serve fellow image-bearers of God to meet their spiritual, physical, and social needs, do I somehow have my own list of needs and rights that I expect to be met as repayment for my pious faithfulness? On some level I do this because I hope to gain social acceptance and cultural influence in the community where God has placed me. Maybe that will happen and maybe not. What if I don’t gain those things? What if I do all of this at great personal cost to me, my reputation, and my family? Would I still do it with equal passion and commitment? This was the challenge from Jesus to His followers who wanted to join His kingdom work. This was the struggle of the early church living out His mission in the midst of a pagan empire.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you…
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel… For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.
Is it enough that God has blessed me to be a blessing to others regardless of whether the larger community takes notice?
Is it true that the good news of Jesus has radically reoriented my life around making much of Him regardless of personal cost?