Snow Shovels and Evangelical Social Justice

(an irritatingly general perspective on evangelical social justice)

Snow Shovel

Four inches of snow showed up today. The HOA (Home Owner’s Association) didn’t. Normally, my neighbors and I can count on them to faithfully plow our driveways before we head out for work in the morning. Not today.

So I made the trip to the local hardware store, shelled out the $15, and bought a snow shovel. By the time I got home, I had the words “Do for others what you would have them do for you (Mt. 7:12)” in my head.

Lovely.

It’s interesting that Jesus didn’t say: “Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t have them do to you.” In other words: “Just avoid hurting people. Hold back. Restrain yourself.” That’s too passive for Jesus. For Jesus – and therefore, for the Christian – love is necessarily active.

It isn’t God’s design that the church merely hold back hate – but that we actively help, serve, and love a hurting world – that we do. I’m pretty sure that’s what God means when he says “faith without works is dead (Jms. 2:26).”

So I shoveled my neighbor’s driveway too. Incidentally, I don’t mean to sound noble. According to Jesus, loving your neighbors is probably just supposed to be normal.

Honestly, I had a hard time just wanting to. After all – it’s cold out there.

A huge part of my 9-5 job is developing strategies and thinking strategically. Strategy is great. Strategy ensures that we don’t waste time and effort with needless mechanisms. But here’s the question: When we see a need in the world – when governments fail and other social institutions prove their impotence – are our churches agile enough to respond?

Christians are supposed to be the people entrusted with the power to love honestly and unconditionally.

But maybe we spend too much time waiting on the HOA (“isn’t that someone else’s responsibility?”). Maybe we spend too much time thinking about what snow shovel to buy (“I’m not sure we’re ready to partner with those types of Christians…”). Maybe we’re simply scared of what active love might mean (“after all, it’s pretty cold out there“).

In the mean time the snow keeps piling up and our neighbors find us shockingly un-shocking.

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11 thoughts on “Snow Shovels and Evangelical Social Justice

  1. Niiiiice, Brannon. I’d have to say though, that we’re
    usually pretty good at loving our neighbor …when it’s pleasant
    and it makes us look good (delivering Christmas cookies, looking
    after their cat for a weekend, etc.) We’ll even drop a few dollars
    in a charity bucket occasionally. But I wonder how many of us have
    loved till it hurts. It’s so easy to rationalize a protective
    nature into God that allows us to excuse ourselves from loving
    beyond the point of personal comfort. Glad you shoveled your
    neighbor’s walk — and I’m glad I’m in El Salvador where the
    afternoon temps reached a balmy 78 today. Whew! That exempts me
    from having to love anyone today. Lucky me.

  2. Well good challenge. I did do my neighbors drive and with a happy heart (because I have a snow blower?).
    Each time I’m out there I am thanking God for this littel junk blower that’s still running. Needs a belt now but no problem. Our neighbor a divorced single mom is so sweet and appreciative. It’s hard not to help. It’s my privilage to help and do as Christ commanded re careing for these dear folks.
    Thank Brannon for your keen insights.

    • Thanks – junk blower or not, it’s still a tool to be used. You’re showing the love of Jesus. When we give out of what we have (as opposed to what we wish we had), we’re modeling Christ. Here’s to more snow!

  3. Well put, brother. I especially liked the distinction you make between active and passive reciprocity. Incidently, did you know that Confucius has a version of the Golden Rule that predates Christ? It goes something like this: “What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.” There’s quite a big difference, though, as you suggest, between restraing and activism.

    • Yep – I’ve heard that bit about Confucious before. To me, that’s the compelling thing about Jesus: anyone with a pulse can withhold menacing activity (I can sit on my couch, watch football, and offend no one). But Jesus significantly raises the bar.
      Oh – and I’m stealing the phrase “passive reciprocity.” Bumper sticker. Beautiful.

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