“Sympathy is no substitute for action.” -David Livingstone

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The topics of social justice and meeting physical needs has increasingly come into my peripheral more than in Last spring quarter, my Action Group (Bible study) was going through a book called ‘Good News, Good Works’ by Ronald J. Sider and biblical topics that it discussed. It was a call to action to live a life of seeking to meet the physical and spiritual needs of those around you. It was a reminder that, although it is difficult to find the balance and focus on both, these two topics should not be divorced, but instead are interconnected. While I believe that eternity is a lot more important than the suffering in this life, I think it’s vital to understand that the two are not disconnected.

The idea of a ‘wartime lifestyle’, or ‘missional living’ is something that I am very much in agreement with and advocate. However, I recognize it’s a lot harder to allow that attitude to actually permeate through all of my life and actions. Oswald J. Smith said “We talk of the second coming; half the world has never heard of the first”, and “No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once.” I’m pretty sure I agree with these views, in theory at least, perhaps you disagree, and perhaps there needs to be more context given or it’s more situational than all-encompassing. Just as Oswald J. Smith said those things about evangelism, I think similar sentiments could be expressed about social justice issues, and how I have as much clothing, food, and countless other resources at my fingertips as I could need or want, there are many across the globe that have close to nothing.

 primary ministry foci in serving and loving Jesus and people have been evangelism and discipleship. The past few quarters, and especially at Indianapolis Christmas Conference this year,  I have noticed an increasing awareness of meeting physical needs, particularly in cities in America and worldwide. As I become more aware of these new understands in my own life, I notice more the ministries and people and writers that have been a blessing to me, seeming to place more emphasis on these important needs.

Although I’ve never read any of Tony Campolo’s stuff and am not certain about his theology I think the convicting message of this is right: “I don’t know how your theology works, but if Jesus has a choice between stained glass windows and feeding starving kids in Haiti, I have a feeling he’d choose the starving kids in Haiti.”

In the past, for numerous reasons, my understanding was that along with social justice came liberal theology, and that is largely due to that being accurate in the history (this is a big generalization, but by and large) of Christianity, and especially where orthodox Christians have strayed from seeking to meet these needs.

The thoughts I have sat down and typed reflect a stream of thoughts from standing behind a family in line at the Athens Wal-Mart yesterday, and driving in my car listening to the Jon Foreman CD ‘Limbs and Branches that I just got a week or two ago.

My prayer is that God would continue to give us understanding, and empower us to love people. To preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, exhorting others to turn from their sins and embrace Christ as Lord and Savior to every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. And may we joyfully sacrifice our own comforts and materialistic wants, for the sake of ministering to others holistically.

Jesus’ words recording in the gospel according to Matthew 25:31-46 and numerous prophets are clear of Christ’s love for the foreigner, poor, widowed, and orphaned, and I pray that our lives would reflect that and be clear about our actions toward them as well.

I’ll end by listing the lyrics to Jon Foreman’s song “Instead of a Show”, but reminding myself that “Sympathy is no substitute for action.” -David Livingstone

I hate all your show and pretense
The hypocrisy of your praise
The hypocrisy of your festivals
I hate all your show
Away with your noisy worship
Away with your noisy hymns
I stomp on my ears when you’re singing ’em
I hate all your show


Instead let there be a flood of justice
An endless procession of righteous living, living
Instead let there be a flood of justice
Instead of a show

Your eyes are closed when you’re praying
You sing right along with the band
You shine up your shoes for services
There’s blood on your hands
You turned your back on the homeless
And the ones that don’t fit in your plan
Quit playing religion games
There’s blood on your hands

Let’s argue this out
If your sins are blood red
Let’s argue this out
You’ll be one of the clouds
Let’s argue this out
Quit fooling around
Give love to the ones who can’t love at all
Give hope to the ones who got no hope at all
Stand up for the ones who can’t stand at all, all
I hate all your show
I hate all your show
I hate all your show
I hate all your show


About Aaron Golby

Christian. Husband to Katherine.
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