AIDS, the Social Gospel, and the Gospel

The other day, Thabiti Anyabwile posted some powerful reflections on his time in Africa. He was in an area where 85% of people there–men, women, and children–are HIV positive and dying of AIDS. What he said about the ministry he worked with I could say the same for Africa Renewal Ministries in Uganda. Here is a powerful must-read section explaining the important relationship between the gospel we declare in words and the gospel we demonstrate in our deeds:

Today, we visited a ministry called Lily of the Valley. It’s a very comprehensive effort to try and address this pandemic: gospel preaching and Bible teaching, housing for AIDS orphans, medical clinic, cottage industry/business. They’re doing a valiant work. Please pray for them.

As we toured the place and heard more about the ministry, I was left with a couple thoughts:

1. These people are trying to re-engineer an entire society. The problem and the work are massive. For example, just how do you re-introduce fatherhood to a culture when virtually none are known or exist?

2. The implications of the gospel are enormous for this re-engineering effort. Not only must these dear people in God’s image come to believe in Christ and be saved, the outworkings of gospel life must be freshly imaged and lived as the only reconstructive force powerful enough to address this plague. If the succeeding generation isn’t swept up in a revival, a supernatural enlargement of God’s converting and sanctifying work through His Spirit, then the catastrophic effects of sin will destroy them. And this sin attacks at the very point where promiscuity meets reproductive hope.

3. This makes squabbles about the social gospel almost irrelevant. I say “almost” because anything that obscures or supplants the gospel that saves cannot be completely irrelevant and must be avoided. The social gospel dooms people to hell. But in the final analysis, so too does a so-called “biblical” gospel that gets penal substitution, justification, repentance and faith correct but never moves us to preach it, teach it, spread it, apply it, and risk it and ourselves in caring for the needs of people perishing in sin and disease and hunger and war and poverty and illiteracy.

Please take the time to read the whole post.

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