Isaiah 1:14-16 (ESV)
Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
The religious activities of God’s people are despicable to God. They carry on their religious festivals and prayers, but God refuses to acknowledge their worship. Why? Their “hands are full of blood,” and their deeds are evil. A conservative, evangelical Christian is likely to point fingers at the liberal church and say, “That is a description of them.” They appear religious, but their hands are full of blood and their ways are evil. They support the killing of unborn children and they reject the truth and authority of Scripture.
Let me challenge you to consider that it is equally the conservative evangelical being described here. What does God mean when he says that their hands are full of blood and their deeds are evil? The very next verse explains what he is talking about.
learn to do good;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.
There was a time when Israel was involved in the despicable practices of child sacrifice like the pagans around them. But here God speaks of something else. They need to “learn to do good.” They need to “seek justice and correct oppression.” They need to “bring justice to the fatherless” and the widow. These, unfortunately, are areas of life that conservative evangelicals have often neglected. Years ago, those areas of life were delegated to the government. It is the government that is responsible for justice. It is the government that is to cover the needs of the widow through Social Security. It is the government that oversees the foster care system. That is not the churches role. That sounds too much like a Social Gospel. We don’t go there. And therein lies the problem.
Jesus said that the greatest command was to love God, and that the second was to love others. The Apostle John wrote, “And this commandment we have from him (Jesus): whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:21 ESV). I have heard love described as obedience. If you love God you will obey him. This is true, but obey him in what? Jesus only gave us two commands. Love God. Love others. Too often we have defined loving God as not going to bars, not hanging out with sinners, and not doing “bad” things. Jesus says that loving God is primarily defined as loving others.
There is not a Gospel and a Social Gospel. There is only the Gospel that changes hearts and turns self-centered, self-focused sinners into loving servants of the poor, disenfranchised, and underprivileged. Maybe we are not as godly as we would like to think. Israel certainly wasn’t. Let’s stop pointing fingers at others and take a good hard look in the mirror. Who do you love?