Kingdom work, social justice


Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

The King of the Kingdom

As Scot McKnight says over at his Jesus Creed blog, this is an article in the Associated
Baptist Press
 that ought to get some discussion:

WACO, Texas (ABP) — A rising generation of Christians intent on working for social justice must not confuse that effort with “kingdom work,” award-winning Christian author Scot McKnight said during the Parchman Endowed Lecturesseries at Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary.

“In our country, the younger generation is becoming obsessed with social justice,” including through government opportunities, politics and voting, said McKnight, author of The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others. “What it’s doing is leading young Christians out of the church and into the public sector to do what they call ‘kingdom work.’

“I want to raise a red flag here: There is no such thing as kingdom work outside the church — and I don’t mean the building. The kingdom is about King Jesus and King Jesus’ people and King Jesus’ ethics for King Jesus’ people.

Social justice outside the church is not biblical justice or kingdom work. It is social work. Fine, that’s a good thing. But let’s not call this kingdom work.”

“Instead, he called on listeners to make the church “a beachhead of justice and peace and love” for those in need in the church. Then, “let that kind of church and kingdom and justice work spill over into the walls of your community.”

[On the blog, Scot adds the following commentary:]

I’m all for “social” justice. I’m fighting the trend I see today of equating “kingdom work” with public sector social justice work. As if “kingdom” is something done outside the church. As I read the Gospels, Jesus’ uses “kingdom” for himself/God as King, for his followers who enter into his kingdom vision, and for the ecclesial/social conditions created by those who follow Jesus and his kingdom vision. So, there is no such thing as “kingdom” outside those who follow Jesus. Yes, by all means, kingdom people extend kingdom into other areas but only so far as they are embodying Jesus’ kingdom vision.

Those on the right side of the theological spectrum may think I’m an ally of theirs on this point; not so. I want the church to be a kingdom embodiment and I’m not criticizing social work at all; I’m pushing back against the left-wing mistaken notion that kingdom is what happens outside the church, that kingdom is something bigger (and therefore other) than church, etc.. My view is traditionally anabaptist on this one. The local church is called to be an embodiment of kingdom realities. But kingdom realities only applies those ecclesial actions.

Check out the ensuing discussion on this over at Jesus Creed.

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One response to “Kingdom work, social justice

  1. I would agree with this. I usually get it in the other direction from my critics, that any activism concerning the secular world is not kingdom work.

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