Humanitarian Jesus

Social Justice and the Cross


Christian Buckley & Ryan Dobson

Moody Publishers, 2010, 218 pp.   ISBN 978-0-8024-5263-4



Buckley is a lawyer, entrepreneur and writer, the founder of thinkmoretruth.com.  Dobson is found of KOR ministries and cohost of Family Talk with Dr. James Dobson.  In multiple ways the authors say that humanitarian ministry is incomplete without the gospel.  About 2/3 of the book consists of interviews with leaders of 15 humanitarian organizations.  [I read only the authors’ contribution, not the interviews. dlm]


“Christ was a humanitarian for sure, but not the kind you would expect.  He healed many, when He had the power to heal all.  He fed many, when He had the power to feed all.  He restored a few to life, liberated a few from suffering, and redressed a few injustices.  But in all these matters, His work was totally incomplete from a statistical perspective.  In fact, of all His work and effort, He actually focused on just one ultimate task.    Christ healed, He fed, He touched, and He loved; but above all, He conquered death and sin to provide an eternal solution to brokenness and separation.” (14)


“Christ understood the reality that we see with physical eyes, the visible consequences of a broken world in our lives, but we often fail to see with spiritual eyes the eternal consequences that go with them.”   “Each of us, whether we realize it or not, needs to see Christ for who He really is.  We need to have a powerful encounter with our Creator that can transform our eternal destinies, not just our physical circumstances.” (20)


“The hungry need food, but we all need redemption.  The blind need sight, but we all need to see our condition and separation from God.  Every encounter between God and us has these two dimensions—the physical and the spiritual.” (21)


“The focus of Christ’s life, as given by His father, was to provide a singular opportunity for whosoever might believe in Him to not perish but have everlasting, reconciled life with Him.  This fact is the cornerstone of Scripture.  Yet on His way to the cross, Christ invested His life in people.”  (21)


“Christ didn’t minimize His compassionate work of healing and delivering the oppressed, but He also made clear that He came to preach….” (23)


“Of all the good that can be done in the world, what good should be done and why?  Is ‘doing good, good enough,’ or are we called to something more?”  (24)


“On the one hand, we may be tempted to totally abandon social investment in furtherance of the message of salvation and resolutely focus on the pre-eminence of eternity, choosing to center on Christ’s death and resurrection and the need for spiritual rebirth.  On the other hand, we may be tempted to dilute, if not abandon, the gospel for the achievement of temporal social goods, choosing to focus on Christ’s acts of love and call to care for the poor and needy.”  (25)


“Jesus was a humanitarian, but of a unique kind.  He healed to reveal true healing.  He fed to reveal true food.  He quenched thirst to reveal everlasting water.  Christ’s actions were temporal, but His intended impact was for His every word and deed to be eternally transforming.” (26)


“Today, a new form of ‘social gospel’ appears to be emerging….  This version of the social gospel can be understood to suggest that Christianity is almost exclusively encompassed by the concepts of ‘love’ and ‘doing good.’  It accepts the second of the Great Commandments—love your neighbor as yourself—but makes little reference to the first—love your Lord God with all your heart, mind, and soul.” (37)


Three important truths:

“Truth 1. Eternity is real.  We are eternal beings, confined for a season to this physical reality, confronted with God’s plan of redemption.”  We will continue to exist throughout eternity, either with or without the presence of God.  The reality of this life is only a small part of reality.  Our eternal condition is a primary concern of Scripture.  Note that the early church leaders spent the majority of their time preaching and teaching about Christ crucified and resurrected. 


“Truth 2. Temporal Investment is important.  Christ’s life and teachings compel us to invest in the temporal problems of His creation.”  Christ walked the earth healing, feeding, touching, and loving.  He gave the second Great Commandment to love our neighbor.  And He gave us the parable of the Good Samaritan to define who our neighbors are. 


“Truth 3.  Every servant has a master.  Every Christian is called to serve Christ in His continuing work of reconciling the lost to Himself.”  “We don’t add Christ to our lives; we give Him our lives as servants….” 


“And while they appealed for His healing touch, He in turn appealed to them to be reconciled.  And He still does.  God, our creator, is in fact pleading for His creation to come to Him.  That is why, in the final analysis, God is not asking us to fix His creation.  He is not asking us to just help His creation.  He is not asking us to simply emulate His actions.  He is calling people to Himself through us.” (51)


“When we define evangelism as just what we say, as a verbal call that requires a response, we improperly segregate it from who we are and what we do.  But if we define it just as what we do and segregate it from who Christ is and what He said, then we forget that while Christ existed with people and met their needs, He called for a response. … We have a Master and He is calling us to live in such a way that the world is evangelized—so that every human is confronted with Christ and offered the chance to accept His sacrifice and surrender to His Lordship.” (53)


“When he met the woman at the well, it was living water that He was offering, not the kind we can get out of the ground.  When He hung on the cross, He responded to the eternal need of the thief, not his physical need.  And when He was lost by His parents and found in the temple, it was His Father’s will He was about, not the agenda of His parents on earth.” (57)


“…we must always view our temporal endeavors in light of the reality of eternity and the fact that we will all stand before the Savior at the moment of our last breath.” (58) 


“No matter what we do in this life to improve our condition or the condition of mankind in general, it will all be rendered meaningless at the last breath of equality, unless what we did reaches into eternity.” (59) 


“We get it wrong if we say that doing ‘good’ is ‘not good.’ … But we also get it wrong if we don’t realize that ‘doing good isn’t good enough’ unless it is tied to eternity.”  (61)


 “The biblical paradigm for fixing the brokenness of this earth is not by human endeavor through progressive restoration or renovation, but rather by divine re-creation.” (68) 


“We could spend an entire life serving people and never once risk offending anyone.  But if we open our mouths and share the biblical gospel of salvation, then we risk offense, humiliation, and scorn.  We risk being called unloving, narrow-minded, and intolerant.  We risk being persecuted rather than praised.  … Christ opened His mouth and the apostles did the same.  The consequences for almost all of them were severe, but if you if you asked any of them, they would confirm it was worth it.  Our evangelism must include what we do and who we are, but it must also include words.” (70)


 “Of this we can be certain: a person’s eternal destiny is not transformed by a good deed done on their behalf, but by their experiencing a life-altering personal meeting with the risen Christ.” (75)


“There is no greater calling, no greater mission, no greater work than to carry in us the hope of glory, the presence of the risen Lord, and the words of eternal life.  We should carry in our hands food, water, medicine, justice, and relief, in any and every form.  But our hearts, minds, and souls must be reserved for Christ alone.  The hope of glory is Christ in us, not what we do on His behalf.” (76) 


“…while you and I might be able to treat the symptoms of sin, only God holds the cure.” (76)



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