Related discussions had to do with the authority and use of Scripture in the Christian community and the proclamation of the gospel in word and deed.
If Jesus Christ is the critical factor in the life of the world — as the Bible and the church have proclaimed down through the ages — then it matters how we live our lives and how the world is ordered in light of his Lordship of the whole creation. God has elevated the risen Lord to his own right hand. The Holy Spirit, God’s active and powerful presence in the lives of believers, is an instrument of Christ’s rule. Those who have in faith committed their lives and destinies to the living God who made, sustains and rules the world will approach life differently from those who have not so committed themselves.
Quite simply, the church and Christians do not live for themselves, but for Christ and the neighbor. If the church exists to proclaim Christ — crucified and risen — if its primary message is the gospel, the good news of what God has already done in Jesus Christ, then its mission and its lifestyle will be defined by the One who founded and rules the church.
The church and Christians will be in the world, but not of the world. In life and work the church and Christians will say and do those things which bring honor and glory to Jesus Christ.
The church and Christians will not call on their fellow humans to shoulder burdens they are unwilling to take on for themselves. That means if some proposed measure calls to account a corporation or polluter or some other malefactor, then it should call the church and Christians to account as well.
The church and Christians will not engage in meaningless, self-righteous posturing. It’s not wrong that the church, in seeking to understand complex issues of the world, writes papers and studies that are sometimes quickly forgotten or escape notice by the world entirely. What is wrong is that so much of what we do of this nature in the church becomes a substitute for action. If a meeting is held on behalf of some great cause, if a resolution is passed, if a policy is approved, then somehow we think we’ve done what needed to be done. Well, maybe all these things are necessary in order to bring about changes that we hope are pleasing to God, but to believe that we have acted when we have not is unfaithfulness and delusion.
The church, like its Master, will of course present a humble presence to the world — seeking out the lost and lonely and hurting, and welcoming them into the fellowship of Christ. Humility, heartfelt compassion and caring, welcoming, gentleness, kindness are all marks of the Holy Spirit at work in the church and among Christians.
But when all is said and done, people who mean what they say about Jesus Christ will put that faith to work to do amazing things for the sake of Christ’s rule on Earth. They have since the beginning. Christians after all bear witness to One more powerful than all the powers and principalities combined. The movement that started with Jesus and the Twelve — one of whom had to be replaced — within 300 years of those humble beginnings had overtaken an empire.
We can be thankful that the empire, at least in most places, no longer owns the church.
But the church still has universal goals — to bring all humans to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, to the ends of the Earth, to the end of time.
Rarely, these days, do we hear of God’s grand design for the whole creation. Instead we’re constantly talking about the small pieces, and fighting over things the world fights about — sex, power and money — in the same way the world fights these battles.
As we settle for our decreasing one percent share of the population, there’s no air of crisis, just the constant cacophony of fighting about sex, power and money. It’s a sad picture. God does have larger plans for us.
This is the fourth in a series of five editorials by Editor Robert H. Bullock Jr. The first is Jesus Christ: An Apology and the second is “A Testimony, the third is Confession and the fifth is The Issue.
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