Left And Right Of The Gospel

I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. -Glenn Beck

When people of faith get to the public square they shouldn’t say “my religious view is this.” They should speak in moral language that is inclusive of everybody. -Jim Wallis

Wherever God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven, in that place God’s rule is manifest, He is King and the kingdom comes. The kingdom is the domain of the King’s rule, the territory where His authority is acknowledged, His orders are heeded and His ideal will is carried out (Matthew 6:10).

Jesus said His kingdom had at least two territories: “within” and “the world.” The religious left largely ignores the necessity of the first in the accomplishment of the second while the religious right largely ignores the necessity of the second for the validation of the first.

Kingdom In Us

Jesus said His kingdom is within us (Luke 17:21). When we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9) we are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13). We are no longer ruled by our “nature” (Romans 7:5), no longer slaves to sin, but we are citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20), slaves of Christ our King (Romans 6:22).

Christ now rules over us from within us. He rules over our sin with forgiveness and forgetfulness (Psalm 103:12). He rules over our shame with His purity (Ezekiel 36:25). He rules over our old pattern of thinking with His renewal of our mind (Romans 12:2). He rules over our weakness with His strength (Acts 1:8). He rules over our pain with His Comforter (John 15:26). He rules over our rebellious “nature” by giving us a new disposition or desire to obey Him (Ezekiel 36:27). He rules over every inch of our inner terrain.

Kingdom Thru Us

When God rules in us He always desires to rule through us.

As we go into the world God rules over it through us, preaching good news to the poor: freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, release for the oppressed (Luke 4:18). We announce that God, here and now, reigns over the world. And then through our collective action (1 John 3:18), sacrifice (Isaiah 58) and self-denial (Acts 2:44-45) God’s reign becomes practical, physical, visible and present tense, not merely theoretical, spiritual, unseen and future tense.

Jesus calls the arrival of his kingdom Good News – eugelion in Greek, also translated “gospel.” It was a secular word, not a sacred one in Jesus’ day: a pronouncement or official message made by a king.

Jesus’ message or announcement was that He reigns! He reigns within us and thru us, over the past, present and future. To espouse one dimension of Christ’s gospel and ignore the other is to preach half the gospel.

The Left Omission

Some on “the left” of the gospel are preaching God’s rule through us without first demanding God’s rule within us. It is correct to say that God wants to overthrow injustice and poverty and corruption. It is incorrect and naive, however, to believe that people who have not submitted to God’s rule within can even define words like “peace” and “justice” and “enough”, let alone bring them about here and now by their own godless power.

Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, he said. If it were then men and women could advance it with their own might, weapons, strategy and intellect. Jesus Himself said that first the Spirit must be in us (Acts 1:8) and then we are to go into the world, as Jesus did, by the power of God to heal and teach (Matthew 4:23).

A political or social movement or government initiative bent on “reform” that does not have the person and power of Christ at the heart of it – at the heart of the people in it – is an impotent faux kingdom build on the sands of “morality” or “spirituality” or “civic duty.” And those “powers” are no match for the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18).

The Right Omission

Some on “the right” of the gospel are preaching God’s rule within us without teaching the sort of biblical faith that is God’s rule thru us.

In Matthew 25 Jesus says that when we arrive in heaven He will sort those who claimed to be His loyal subjects from those who truly were using one measure: What did you do for the least?

In this passage, I don’t believe Jesus was commanding us to care for “the least” so that He will accept us and allow us into heaven. We are accepted by God because of what Christ did on the cross and by his resurrection. Period.

I also don’t believe Jesus was saying “works” like feeding the hungry and visiting the imprisoned were merely possible results of faith in Christ either. Compassion, love, peace making, generosity, justice, evangelism – these are not electives. We don’t choose, as people with faith in Jesus, to take or leave the poor or oppressed or lost. These works are our faith.

Faith without “works” is not faith (James 2:14-26). It is not faith just like fire without heat and light is not fire. Heat and light are not just the possible result of fire, something fire sometimes does. They are fire. Inseparable from flame itself.

It is impossible for Christ to be King of my inner life and yet leave me cold toward those in every kind of need. I cannot have His mind, His disposition, His forgiveness, love and His power and not desire to exercise it on behalf of those in spiritual and physical need (1 John 3:16-17). I cannot believe in the authority of scripture on the subjects of sin, forgiveness, heaven and hell but put no stock in its teachings about the poor.


Jesus’ central message was that God’s rule has arrived on earth now (Mark 1): In the hearts of those who deny themselves and place their full trust in Him as absolute King. And through them over everything busted and broken in the world. Jesus came to redeem or reconcile all things – inside and out – by His power alone and for His glory always (Colossians 1:19-24).

Jesus said our response to His gospel is to be repentance. Repentance is a military term for shifting allegiance from the former ruler (John 12:31) to the new conquering king (Hebrews 2:9).  It was a choice given to defeated enemy soldiers by their new ruler after they’d been overthrown: “Repent. Stop fighting against me. Switch sides. Join me. Follow me and live.”

The command was not for a change of allegiance without a change of action or for a new course without a new compulsion. Christ demands a full surrender of our inner and outer lives to His loving rule (Luke 10:27).

Any gospel that denies the necessity of either the inner or outer dimensions of God’s rule is not the gospel of Jesus. Right or left, it’s wrong.