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This article repeats a well-worn and tired dichotomy between those who care for social issues and those who care for the eternal souls. This debate has been present in the CRC since our founding (and before). Love of God always necessitates love of neighbor. Care for eternal souls is always tied with care for their present state. We drive a wedge between members of the CRC when we accuse one faction of 'simply not believing Jesus' words in Mark 8:36.' (what an accusation!) The prophets constantly critique Israel for worshipping God while ignoring God's people at the margins -- its one of their many forms of idolatry (see Isaiah 1 below). Matthew 25 reiterates this prophetic tradition. 1 John as well (see below). What will cause our neighbors to flourish? Bringing them into a deep love for God and deep love for our neighbor. We do both. So let's listen to people on both sides of the aisle who are doing this in ways that may initially puzzle us. Let's learn something instead of drive the wedge deeper. 

The author asks the question, "what is a person’s greatest need?" This sounds a lot like a question posed about the greatest commandment, to which Jesus replied: 

 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’


Isaiah 1: 

5 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
    I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
    I am not listening.

Your hands are full of blood!

16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
    Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
    stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.[a]
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow.

 1 John: 

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

"The church holds the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and the kingdom of heaven is opened and shut through the preaching of the gospel, not through giving people bread and shelter, as important as those things are."

This comment illustrates the division often driven between gospel as God's salvific action and gospel as good news for our present and physical circumstances on earth. The gospel is always both, and I do not see this represented above. I hear your critique of those who divorce the latter from the former, but I believe the critique is based more on misunderstanding and straw man stereotypes of CRCNA folks. 

Jesus' first public appearance in the gospel of Luke is often stripped of its prophetic context. The gospel is news, period, as you say, and the gospel news never separates love for Yahweh and a commitment to justice. The year of the Lord's favor--see below--is a profoundly redistributive moment, and it forms part of the gospel. I hope we can continue this dialogue in person sometime, and I appreciate your response.  

Luke 4: 

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[f]

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Izaak, again, I'd like to take this up in person sometime. It's an incredibly important conversation. A blog I read made me think back to this post. As I hear your arguments, I can't help but hear echoes of the words that have been used by evangelical Christians for four centuries, words that have identified the primary function of the gospel as saving hearts and souls while simultaneously overlooking or actively advocating for segregation and slavery. Here's a bit written by a Presbyterian professor in opposition of civil rights. To me, his words sound similar to the arguments above, and this is one of thousands of quotes like it: 

"I am troubled by the great amount of space devoted to the question of civil rights and race relations in the latest issue of the Guardian. These are not the paramount issues before the church today. In the dense fog of obfuscation which the liberal press has succeeded in raising even true Christians may lose sight of the church’s central purpose. That central purpose is the preaching of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ. Scripture makes clear that a Christian should do good unto all men, especially to those who are of the household of faith. He who preaches the gospel in its fullness (including the obligations of Christians to others) is doing more for Negro and White than can possibly be accomplished by any method which in giving rights to one may take them away from another. (October, 1964, p. 131)."

I think you'd agree with this quote, but it's placement within an argument against civil rights should ring some warning bells. It did for me when I first encountered the reality of how we've used our narrow spirituality to justify so many abuses in the past. Our Christian history is full of quotes like these, that, in response to calls for an end to slavery and segregation, call the church to focus primarily on the gospel, as if the gospel of Jesus Christ did not directly affect slavery, and as if it does not directly affect present-day iterations of slavery. Here's the full blog, if you're interested:

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