In many parts of the evangelical world, one hears a new debate—or, more precisely, new chapters in an old debate—regarding the precise place that "deeds of mercy" ought to have in Christian witness. I am not talking about the perennial debate between left-wing and right-wing economic solutions, that is, between those who think there will be more social justice and less poverty if the government takes a greater share of the nationally produced wealth and distributes it more equitably, and those who think there will be more social justice and less poverty where government legislation offers carrot-and-stick incentives to help people get off welfare rolls and become less dependent on initiative-killing generosity, while providing a safety net for those truly incapable of helping themselves. I am talking, rather, about the debate between those Christians who say that we should primarily be about the business of heralding the gospel and planting churches, and those who say that our responsibility as Christians extends to the relief of oppression, suffering, and poverty in all their forms.
Carson goes on to challenge Christians to keep in mind our calling to make the Gospel plain in all of its joy and sobriety. Deeds of mercy are a vital complement to the proclamation of the Gospel. If we neglect the Gospel, however, then we cease to be the church and we rob people of the news of eternity's greatest deed of mercy.
As long as you are prepared to plead with men and women to be reconciled to God and to flee the coming wrath, you are preserving something that is central in the Bible, something that is intimately and irrefragably tied to the gospel itself—and those who want to shunt such themes aside and focus only on the relief of present suffering will not want to have much to do with you. Thus you will be free to preach and teach the whole counsel of God and to relieve all suffering, temporal and eternal, without being drawn into endless alliances in which people never focus on anything beyond threescore years and ten.
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