Opinion  |  

The questions we all must face

Tim Costello on gospel champions

The good, bad and sometimes ugly faces of Christianity are examined in a refreshingly honest documentary film with the intriguing title For the Love of God: How the church is better and worse than you ever imagined.

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It boldly charts the Church’s darkest failings – the witch hunts, oppression and corruption – and also the Christian origins of human rights, justice and sacrificial charity.

Many would prefer spiritual leaders to have nothing to say about economics, politics, refugees …

It is both a challenging and encouraging film that I hope many non-Christians will see. But I believe it contains an even bigger message for Christians.

The heroes of this documentary who would most impress non-Christians were all social justice prophets such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King Jr.

We seem to prefer our dead Christian heroes. They can irritate us when alive, when they remind us of the plight of the disadvantaged –  as William Carey and Mother Teresa did by working with India’s Untouchables, and others such as Father Damien, who fought for the rights of lepers.

Many would prefer spiritual leaders to have nothing to say about economics, politics, refugees, the state’s dependency on gambling revenue or the poor, but that’s a misunderstanding of the primacy of evangelism linked with the social gospel.

The only ones singing in tune with Jesus in the film were the social justice champions who were largely opposed during their time by the mainstream churches.

How can theology exclude justice as central to the gospel? Justice is not a replacement of the gospel we love but the missing part we have not preached enough, and this film shows it.

Working for justice is both transformational and missional.

We’ve pulled them apart and their power is that they belong together.

My life has been bookended by two wonderful Bible texts – the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (outlined in Matthew 28), and how we must lovingly commit to care for the poor and disadvantaged (as stated in Matthew 25).

If we are going to sing a redemption song, we better live between both bookends and resist saying we prefer one to the other.

The spiritual and the social questions of eternal life and loving our neighbour are two sides of the one coin. They belong together.

We have separated these two great questions. We’ve pulled them apart and their power is that they belong together

The questions we will all face on Judgment Day will not be theological. Instead, we will be asked: “I was hungry. Did you feed me? I was naked. Did you clothe me? I was an alien. Did you make room for me in your country?’’

We will know we are saved by grace alone but find that if we haven’t lived out justice and compassion, we never really understood God’s grace and saving faith.

For screenings of For The Love of God, visit betterandworse.film

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