The first time I heard the word “woke” used with regard to racial and political issues was in the Eric Mason book, Woke Church. As an encouragement to be mindful of racial and economic tensions within the church and address them, I found the book quite helpful.
But if the idea of being woke is to shift the church’s primary focus onto racial or social issues, I have a problem.
My concern is that the church is not called to focus on the hot button social issue of the day. We are called to preach the gospel along with all the ramifications of what it looks like when we live out the gospel.
Those in the church who call us to be “woke” seem to see themselves as modern day prophets calling the church to reform. But the prophets of old did not call Israel to follow a new message, they called them to live out the message they had already received.
The problem with jumping on social issue bandwagons is that most of the people driving the wagons over simplify the problem and don’t address the core issue. As Christians, we know that core issue is sin. Social issues result from a broken relationship with God and the sin that results from that break.
Christians must keep in mind that the gospel speaks to the disease behind the social issues. The gospel addresses the evil that resides in your breast and mine.
Jesus taught us that the two great commands are to love God with our entire being and love our neighbor as good or better than we love ourselves (see Matthew 22:34-40). I argue that we can not fulfill either of these commands apart from the work of God in our hearts that begins when we come into relationship with Jesus. Jesus himself said, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
The Gospel is the message that Christ died to break the curse of sin that has us in bondage. The meaning of the Cross is that we can all (regardless of gender, race or economic status) find peace with God through the work of Jesus.
As church leaders, can we truly partner with social justice warriors that have a very different motivation for their activism? Will those warriors allow us to address the core issue of sin? Or, will they only allow us to march along in silence?
We are called to make disciples (see Matthew 28:19-20). We know from Jesus’ example that part of the disciple making process is to address real needs, both physical and spiritual. God wants us to look after those who are helpless and in need of support.
Looking after those who need help does not prove how good we are. Looking good is not a proper motivation. But when we love our neighbors, that love can remove barriers which prevent us from sharing the gospel. Again, we are called to make disciples, that is our mission.
I get weary of the call to be woke because in the end, it doesn’t matter how woke we are. It doesn’t matter whether we are liked and accepted by the social warriors of the day. It only matters if we fulfill our mission to make disciples.
That is how we will be judged by the one who gave us that mission.