Wrestling with the inequities and evils of the world can get us out of our self-centered lives. CS Lewis referred to these social conscience causes as “corporate guilt” (Pain 54). While Lewis acknowledged the value of these charitable efforts, he also saw that they can become used as a distraction, a way to avoid “those humdrum old-fashioned guilts,” the ones we heard so much about in Sunday school.
In the extreme, social holiness, or “corporate guilt” as Lewis calls it, can lead to the arrogance of altruism. Being motivated by pride in and a zeal for “works” can easily distract us from facing up to our own flaws. On the other hand, personal holiness, in the extreme, can lead to the self-righteousness of judgment. We condemn others who aren’t following the same path we are.
Finding the loving balance between personal holiness and social holiness is a challenge for every Christian. And so every day we must listen for the voice that comes neither from the right nor from the left (Isa. 30:21), the Lord’s voice. In the struggle between “faith” and “works,” we all need to spend more time listening to the living Saviour.