Truth and Lies: Francis Chan – The Truth and the Lie in Social Justice

Francis Chan is the bestselling author of Crazy Love and Forgotten God. Until recently, he was also the teaching pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California. His message, The Truth and the Lie in Social Justice, was, perhaps, one of the most intriguing for me to see at the conference. Largely because I didn’t know where he was going to go with it.

Chan’s message found its foundation in Colossians 1:16:

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

“We’ve been talking about one-ism and two-ism [at this conference],” said Chan. “Here’s the ultimate [example]: Everything was created for Him!”

Robbing God of His Glory

“Everything we do is to give God glory,” he continued. “Somehow everything I do should give glory to God and in the area of social justice it’s difficult. These are good things, but if we’re not careful but we can get lifted up instead of God.”

The bad part is there are times that I like it. In the last few years my life’s gotten really weird. Our American Christian rock star thing… it’s really messed with my heart at times. And the Lord’s shown me at times… I was at a pastor’s conference, and my face was on the magazine, and on posters and people were talking about me, and he impressed upon me, “You actually like that, don’t’ you? You actually enjoy the buzz of your name around the room?”

It’s amazing we can take glory for ourselves and even as we try to deflect it people push it on us… and then we get to like it. “Look at me, look at me. I speak well. I wrote a book!” [All] to divert attention away from God to what we are doing… It is sick.

Helping Others to the Glory of God

This is the heart of Chan’s message when talking about social justice. How can we care for those in need in a way that brings glory to Him, instead of robbing God of it? “How do we help those in our circle for the glory of the One in His circle?”

Chan gave us three key points in how this is possible:

  1. We imitate Jesus. “Our goal in giving is wanting to be like Him who gave himself for us. We have the ‘right’ to have a lot of stuff, a massive retirement… and it might be okay, but are we being like Jesus? We’re supposed to reflect Christ,” said Chan.
    • Jesus could have held onto everything, but he didn’t. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16) We have all these rights, but can we joyfully say “I want to be like Jesus?” Our problem in some of our churches is that we see Jesus as a beautiful savior, but not a great role model.
    • If you see people in need, how can you say you know Christ’s love? This should be, if you’re a Christian, there’s a desire to give to those in need. That’s what surprised me when I wrote this book.
    • We have a new master, and we’re enslaved to righteousness. We WANT to do what our master desires.
    • “Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. “ (Luke 6:35) Why should I be kind to someone who has ruined his life? Because that’s what the Father does.
  2. We joyfully obey Jesus. “We treat the commands of God as the downside of Christianity, but the commands lead to life,” said Chan. “We bring glory to God by desiring his commands. They lead me to life and a light unto my path.”
    • “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24) There will be times when we won’t feel like obeying the commands of Jesus. Sometimes it’s going to be difficult, but to bring him glory, there are times when we’ll have to deny ourselves and trust God.
    • “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) The Kingdom is our inheritance… and we’re worried about clothes? That’s ridiculous. If he’s going to give you that, I think he’s going to feed you.
    • “When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:13-14) “I doubt many of us have made a custom of this,” said Chan. “But have you ever, even once done that? Have you looked for someone who was an outcast, someone who couldn’t pay you back?”
  3. We love Jesus, joyfully. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”(Matthew 25”34-40). We sing songs about how we love the Lord, but are we looking for ways to practically love Him? To serve people? “Jesus was this incredible servant who just gave and gave and gave…” said Chan.

“When people see you, do they see Jesus? When they walk with you, is it like they’re walking with Jesus?” he asked.

Worship in Deed and Truth

Chan concluded his talk exhorting the audience to not simply know good theology, but to worship in deed and truth (1 John 3:18).

“The main thing I wanted to say to this group today is this. First Cor 13 talks about love and how you can give your money to the poor, but don’t care, then it’s nothing…” said Chan. “My concern about giving this message is I don’t want it all to be heady. It seems sinful for it to be an intellectual exercise.”

We can’t just leave here with more knowledge. What’s the deed that will come from all this knowledge? Some of you guys are brilliant…but maybe you know enough. Maybe you can take what you know and spur action.

At the end of the day, we need to ask if we’re actually becoming more like Christ and loving our neighbors, and going to those people who need it.

Wouldn’t that be a great way to end our lives? To give and give and give and sacrifices for others. Wouldn’t that be a great ending?

We need a generation that not just knows their theology but lives it out.

16 thoughts on “Truth and Lies: Francis Chan – The Truth and the Lie in Social Justice”

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  2. Is this a test? 🙂

    I would say, take them to Jesus and the church. A deeper understanding that as Christians, this is just a part of how we respond as followers of Jesus as we become more like him – put the focus on Christ, not us. Then going further, put the focus on the church – that God didn’t institute individual heroes to change the world, but he instituted the church to respond to the worlds problems–not NGOs or governments or individuals.

  3. I think the danger is when this is the only message or the loudest message. Perhaps it’s the entry point, but then your responsibility is to take them beyond self-focused motivation.

    Agreed. Where is the next place to take them in your opinion?

  4. Well, I think there’s a balance. I do believe that one thing marketers like you have to overcome is the apathy or feeling of some Christians that they really can’t do anything to help, that the problem is too big to respond to. I think in that case the message of “it begins with you” or “you can change a life” can be appropriate.

    I think the danger is when this is the only message or the loudest message. Perhaps it’s the entry point, but then your responsibility is to take them beyond self-focused motivation.

  5. I think that our own Christian marketing messages can encourage the self-glorifying aspect of social justice. Marketers for aid or developmental non-profits purposefully choose messages that paint the American (or Canadian) as the hero–“You can save a child’s life today!” This type of emotional motivation gets donors to respond, which is why it is used.

    Therefore the entry point for many Christians to become involved in “helping the poor” is a message that tells them – YOU can do great things, YOU are the hero, YOU can change a life.

    This might seem like a minor point, but it’s dangerous. You know I have many opinions on this. 🙂

    1. How about “It begins with a child… it begins with you”? 🙂

      It’s definitely dangerous for all of us. I was actually talking with Adam and Steve about this the other day…

  6. It was kinda a bummer that we couldn’t see Francis Chan and Kevin DeYoung on the same Q & A session..

    The contrast between the two messages is evident. Francis Chan does seem to advocate and live a radical “Tasmanian Devil” flavor of faith that DeYoung was discounting a bit. He also seems to advocate a radical lifestyle evangelism.

    I don’t think Chan discounts good doctrine, but he certainly isn’t as much of a neat-nick about it as Driscoll, DeYoung and crew.

    1. That would have been fascinating, yeah. I’d have even liked to see Driscoll and DeYoung on the same panel.

      Chan is definitely a little more “Tasmanian Devil,” I agree (especially after reading Forgotten God); seeing him and Driscoll on the one Q&A panel was a hoot, though. You could see that they’re having fun, which is nice.

      DeYoung’s view (a little closer to where I land) of the Christian life more often than not being extraordinarily ordinary is more helpful, I think, simply because I’ve seen people pursue the dizzying highs constantly and it only lead to despair whenever they go through a “dry” season. Y’know what I mean?

    1. As I think he meant it to. The interesting thing is you could see when he said that it was messing with him that he really meant it.

      Any suggestions on how to put the rock star thing to death?

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