I am in Israel but am reading about what I see as a strange controversy in the USA. It is Glenn Beck's call for people to leave church's that preach a "social gospel", but then goes on to discuss social action and issues of justice as if to do so is unbiblical. The confusion is that these are NOT all the same thing. Let's be clear: the gospel is NOT about doing social work. The gospel is not doing social work, but that does not mean social work is irrelevant to those who embrace the gospel. Social work can be a witness for the gospel or real evidence of a proper response to God, a product of the gospel. The roots are in the Prophets, such as Micah 6:8.
He has told you, O man, what is good,
and what the LORD really wants from you:
He wants you to promote justice, to be faithful,
and to live obediently before your God.
Or try John the Baptist. In Luke 3:10-14 when he is asked to explain what repentance is that is ready for the Lord to come he says:
So the crowds were asking him, “What then should we do?”
John answered them, “The person who has two tunics34 must share with the person who has none, and the person who has food must do likewise.”
Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?”
He told them, “Collect no more than you are required to.” Then some soldiers also asked him, “And as for us-what should we do?” He told them, “Take money from no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your pay.”
To turn to God means I relate to other peopel differently.
Or try Jesus' words to his audience (Matt 5:14-16):
You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden.
People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.
Or the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:5-9:
And when Jesus came to that place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, because I must stay at your house today.” So he came down quickly and welcomed Jesus joyfully. And when the people saw it, they all complained, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, half of my possessions I now give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone of anything, I am paying back four times as much!” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this household, because he too is a son of Abraham!
Something about Zacchaeus's heart was right in showing concern for the poor. Jesus commends the attitude. So let's not let Christian virtue get captured in ideological political rhetoric of cultural wars that take peopel away from the call of the gospel to be socially sensitive. Let's be sure we read and listen to the prophets John the Baptist and Jesus. May political commentators giving advice to members of the church be sure and read their Bible first and not oversimplify what God asks of people who serve him. Yes, the gospel is about salvation of the soul, but service to the world and caring for justice and the poor grows out of responding properly to God. Once again what some want to make either-or is actually a both-and when bibically defined. Let's not villify with political associations of communism or socialism a concern and compassion Jesus asks of people who love their neighbor, part of what Jesus called the greatest commandment.