Friday, May 02, 2008

Social Action and Pentecost: non-verbal expressions of our faith

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

The Franciscan call says, "Preach the Gospel. When necessary use words." The heart of Christian social action is found in this dictum. God's care for the world should be expressed by His people in acts of mercy and giving. The poor should be cared for, and the oppressed relieved. These actions often speak louder than words, and carry the seed of the Gospel in them.

In comparison evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity sometimes look (and sound) shallow, and pompous next to taking serious social action. Of course Christians should be involved with caring for the impoverished and oppressed of the world, but I wonder if the above words of the Apostle Paul are the connecting dots between social action and Pentecostal faith.

His Gospel, perhaps like that of Francis of Asissi, was not simply spoken, but illustrated. Paul healed the sick and cast out demons. He demonstrated God's power through his prayers and blessings to the impoverished and the oppressed, and he did so in such a way as to emphasize his own weakness. By this he more perfectly illustrated the Gospel - He clearly modeled salvation as an act of God's power moving upon humans despite their incapacity to save themselves.

Healing and deliverance through the miraculous acts of the Spirit of God are still the greatest social action moments of the Biblical narrative. They do not by any means give Christians the right to ignore caring for the poor and oppressed in practical ways, but our knowledge of God's power should cause us to desire the spiritual gifts and move into a wholly new realm of social action.


Anonymous said...

This reminds me of that time in the book of Acts when either Paul or Peter came across a cripple who was begging for money. They said they had no money to give but healed him instead. What an awesome gift that must of been!

(confession) I would of been more inclined to give a dollar or two than to even think of praying for healing.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Carl,

I think your confession applies to many of us, and illustrated the boldness required to be involved in spiritual social action.

Kieran Conroy said...

I think the fear many of the more Francis-spirited among us have is of the painful ways the power of God and power of man have been misused in the name of Christ.

It seems to me that quoting some of Paul's words, spoken by the powerless to a Roman authority have almost the opposite effect on many today who have felt on the wrongly recieving end of "Christian power" down through much of recent history.

Can the spritual message be freed, and truly freeing of people who here it as oppressive after living the shadows of Christendom? That's the big message I continue to wrestle with as I talk to people of other faiths and seek to live my own truly.

I don't meant to point at any particular recent groups in the above statement, though the obvious misuse of power (torture, for example, often led by Spanish Franciscans, of all people against the Indians:/ ) seems to be a big turn-off to many people. Going to ponder your words more, maybe, like we saw McLaren do here last fall, there are ways to loose the liberating message from the text in new, surprising ways.