In the sixteenth century, Martin Luther formulated the concept of the priesthood of all believers. Contrary to widespread misconceptions of this doctrine, Luther did not mean to reduce the supernatural concern of personal redemption to a core or essence of social concern.
In reaction to the modernist-fundamentalist controversy, many evangelicals, zealous to retain the biblical concern for personal redemption, began to minimize or even reject the social agenda of the New Testament. Social concern and relief ministry became identified with liberalism. Ministry to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the imprisoned was often all-too-willingly surrendered to the state or the liberal church.
This reaction was utterly foreign to and in violation of the clear mandate of Scripture. James wrote concerning the essence of pure religion: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27, NIV).
Coram deo: Living before the face of God
What are you doing to help those around you who are in distress? Are you keeping yourself clean from the world’s pollution, as James admonishes?