Followers of God throughout history have been preoccupied with social and ethical concerns. In the Old Testament, the God of Israel was deeply concerned for the widow and orphan and commanded his people to care for them accordingly (Ex. 22:22). In the New Testament, the church struggled with whether to eat food sacrificed to idols (1 Cor. 8). Today, we wrestle with questions of racism, environmentalism, colonialism, poverty, globalization, and dozens more.
But these hot-button topics need not be addressed separately from our missions topics. Dr. Danny Akin of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Trillia Newbell of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Kathryn Freeman of the Texas Baptists CLC, and Jaclyn Parrish of the IMB met an SBC annual meeting to discuss how believers can pursue the Great Commission while addressing these questions.
After all, the Great Commission reminds us that the final marching orders of the church are to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19), but we’re also to teach them to obey all that the Lord has taught (Matt. 28:20). We cannot teach new disciples to love to Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matt. 22:37) without also teaching them to love their neighbor as themselves (Matt. 22:39).
If we seek both to obey and to teach all that the Lord has commanded, then it matters how we treat the orphan and the widow, it matters how we think of justice, and it matters how we treat those who are not like us. Social and ethical concern is not a distraction from the gospel but rather a natural result of the gospel.
Jaclyn S. Parrish worked as a writer for IMB in South Asia. She currently serves in the US as a writer, editor, and social media associate for IMB. You can follow her on Twitter at @JaclynSParrish.