What happens when two opposites come together? They should get married.

For my entire life I have sat through countless sermons on Sunday mornings. Truthfully, I remember a good illustration or story better than I do the 3 or more points that were taught those mornings, but there is a constant theme that has been ingrained in me through these years of sitting under the teachings of various men of God: Jesus is the total package.

What I mean is that Jesus did not shy away from addressing issues of doctrine and theology while at the same time constantly focusing on the need for social change. If you are even remotely familiar with theological and church issues, then you understand that there is a thick line that divides two camps of thought when it comes to Jesus and New Testament teaching.

The "conservative" camp draws on not just the theological teachings of Jesus but especially the instructions from Paul and the other New Testament epistles. Here, the emphasis is on theology and the defense of pure theology from the dangers of heresy and misguided interpretations. Jesus made sure that the religious leaders of His day knew that He was the Messiah and that salvation was impossible apart from Him. He addressed their concerns over the Sabbath and questions of responsibility (i.e., Were people inflicted with disease or demons because of their own sin?, etc.) and would respond to their challenges in kind. Paul ramps this dialogue up a notch and spends much of his time correcting false doctrine while elaborating in much detail on further Christian doctrine.

What this can lead to for those who hold more conservative views is a desire to stand upon the truth of Scripture and defend it against all attackers. This is not a bad desire at all, but more often than not the desire stops there. Defense of Scripture turns into round table discussions and the occasional argument amongst believers who hold to differing interpretations of various passages. And don't get me wrong - doctrinal purity is a huge issue and is absolutely worth pursuing and fighting for. But not if that's where your efforts end. More on that in a moment.

The second camp is often labeled as "liberal" and their emphasis is typically less on the theological constructs of Jesus' teaching in favor of the pragmatic aspects. In other words, their concern is with His teachings concerning society and the poor and what we are supposed to do to obey those teachings. Since a large portion of Jesus' teachings do focus on how we treat our neighbors, a "social gospel" has come into play that allows those who espouse liberal views to channel all of their energy in this arena. As a result, many churches, individuals, and groups actively pursue programs to help the "least of these" in our country and beyond and they see it as their biblical and gospel responsibility to enact social change and equality. After all, if Jesus taught about it then it is true.

My liberal friends are right to do this. A main theme in Jesus' teaching did center around social justice and change and, truth be told, those who label themselves conservatives may say they believe in it but rarely put it into consistent practice. But there is problem with holding only onto the social agenda of Jesus. He was much more than that. Jesus Himself said, "The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost" (Luke 19:10), highlighting the fact that the very soul of man is His chief concern. Was Jesus concerned with the poor? Without a doubt. Yet a careful reading of Scripture could hardly warrant one's belief that this is all He cared about. Social issues are worthy to champion, but apart from the truth of the gospel they are no more than philanthropic efforts. Jesus came to save your soul and mine. Period.

So where does that leave us? As one who considers himself very conservative when it comes to the Bible, I can honestly say that I have failed miserably in the area of social justice. I believe every word that Jesus taught and agree with Him about the need to take care of the poor around us. Yet other than sponsoring a child through World Vision I do very little to fulfill that belief. However, I cringe when I hear others criticizing Christians for being bigoted and uncaring because I realize that these critics have probably never studied the Bible and understood that it's all about Jesus, not what soothes our conscience.

What we need is for a wedding to take place. The theologically conservative and theologically liberal need to start dating to get to know each other, a courtship should occur, and then a huge wedding should mark the beginning of a beautiful life together. While it's rarely the case that a husband can change his wife and vice-versa after they are married, this is not so with the conservative and liberal. You see, when they are wed, the conservative begins to understand that it's not enough to just believe what the Bible says - he has to live it out as Jesus instructed. Yes, there is a need for personal responsibility, but I don't recall examples of Jesus looking at the poor and destitute and telling them to clean up and get a job before He simply helped them in their time of greatest.

And after the wedding, the theologically liberal will continue to experience the joy of service in Jesus' name but there will be a new motivation for that service - it will be delivered as a direct response to the grace found only in the gospel of Christ and not out of some religious obligation that he hopes will please God enough to earn His favor. The liberal will no longer be able to ignore the truth of Scripture. This won't change who he helps, but it will put into focus that the greatest need that man has is more than what food and clothes can cover.

The greatest need for all mankind is Jesus. That will never change.

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