The first half of the 2nd chapter of Mark contains a curious pairing of evangelistic stories: the healing of a paraplegic man and the calling of Levi (Matthew). When the paraplegic was brought to Jesus he didn’t first heal his body. Rather, Jesus first forgave his sin. Many Christians today have watered down missions until it is nothing more than a “social gospel”: acts of love and kindness without the preaching of God’s truth. The story of the paraplegic man is evidence that a “Social Gospel” is not enough. People will never receive forgiveness of their sins because we bring them healing from disease, toxic relationships, addiction, or poverty. People will only be forgiven of sin by hearing and believing the message of the gospel. The message must accompany our acts of kindness if we are to rescue people from an eternity apart from Christ.
Although a social gospel is not the answer, we see in the story of Levi that a “Social Networking Gospel” is. Jesus was very social in his approach to sharing the gospel. He met with “sinners and tax collectors” and even invited Levi, the tax collector, to become a disciple (later renaming him Matthew). By tapping into Matthew’s social network, Jesus earned the right to share the message of the gospel with others.
God has given each of us social networks that we must tap into for the sake of Christ’s Kingdom. We must look at our networks and ask, “Who can I help? Who can I befriend? How can I share the message of the gospel with them?” That’s a “Social Networking Gospel.”
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” He said to the paralytic, ”I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
~Mark 2:1-17 (NIV)