Overcoming One-Sided Christianity

As I anticipated, this past weekend was indeed full. And good. There is much to process and reflect on what we heard and experienced. And so I begin...

Ron Sider is a legend of sorts for social-minded evangelicals. His book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger was first published in 1977 and has sold over 350,000 copies. He’s also the founder of Evangelicals for Social Action. So hear him speak in person was a privilege, as his story and message is one that’s proven in a variety times and places.

Sider addressed how in an age of polarized Christianity, particularly among evangelicals, there is a constant tendency to emphasize evangelism (word) and social justice (deed) over against one another. Addressing this dichotomy, one word stuck out to me from Sider’s presentation: “Both.”

Profound, I know!

Sider doesn’t suggest we order or prioritize, or somehow better understand the particular dynamics of how word and deed relate. Going beyond nuance, he asserts plainly that we need both. “People need Jesus and a job” Sider quipped. Not one then/or the other. Both.

In the process, Sider doesn't avoid important topics often used to affirm these typically polarized ideas. Sin, humanity, salvation, and the gospel need to be addressed. Sin is both personal and social. People are both individual and community. The gospel - the good news of Jesus - doesn’t polarize but reveals the fullness of God’s kingdom in a world and in our lives in which Jesus is Lord. The gospel is about transformative salvation of whole persons achieved in the cross and resurrection. 

If we accept polarizations, Sider may sound too socially minded to some and too Christ-centered to others. But by saying we get both word and deed in the gospel, polarization is no longer an option. How do you polarize “both”?


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