If Christians wish to contribute to social reform, then they must start with their own institutions. It would be pointless to single out individual communions, denominations, or congregations as guilty of a particular failure on this part. Each Christian body in the world, I think, suffers from what I am about to speak on. The deficiency in the Christian world towards loving one’s neighbor is not an exclusively Christian issue. It is, like many great things, a matter of our fragile and imperfect humanity.
The Church, in its universal, invisible respect, is an organism in constant need of nourishment and care. Consider the Church as one that symbolically and mystically represents that of the human body, a meaningful metaphor the Apostle Paul provides in 1 Corinthians 12:27. The organic body of a man requires exercise, food, and stimulation through interaction with others. If a man’s body is not exercised, he grows lazy and unhealthy, hence unable to move onto adventurous quests of great feats. If a man is not fed, he grows extremely skinny and is a gaunt, grumpy creature; he will eventually wither up and die. If he is not given an outlet for social stimulus—that is, interaction with one’s family, friends, and strangers—he grows antisocial and spiteful towards others, drawing himself away from the world and becoming hidden from mortal eyes.
Like the human body, the Church requires to be consistently nourished, renewed, and socialized. Otherwise, it will crumble and become dissonant of the institution which Christ founded. But how is the Church exercised? How is she fed? How does she socialize with others?
Firstly, the Church is exercised through its take on difficult social, political, and geopolitical issues. When God’s people are forced into what might be considered uncomfortable situations, the Church’s will and capabilities are stretched and strengthened like those of a bodybuilder, hence giving her a strong arm to guide those who come to her embrace. In relation to this, we have seen phenomenal feats of exercise in the Church over the last 20 centuries, which the Jerusalem Council attests to (Acts 15). We have also seen these feats in the Church’s defense of the nature of Christ and the Trinitarian Godhead under the influx of Arian and Nestorian heretics, among others. Presently, however, the church has not hurdled any of such obstacles. The organism, once a strong and hardy institution due to its consistent opposition, has become lazy and fat, unable to defend itself against arguments which would have been utterly destroyed by the strength of the Great Church in her prime. Congregations have shrugged off social, political, and geopolitical issues as individual matters. In effect, the organism itself has too often refrained from involving itself in formal matters in fear of offending its opposition.
Secondly, the word of God feeds the Church. The preaching of truth at the pulpit and the application of sound doctrine are the lifeblood of the Christian faith. Without a solidly grounded preacher, the local congregation will not have a solid foundation. The preacher, then, can be understood as a prophet for his church, leading the people through social issues and civil matters and influencing and guiding them through dangerous waters without anything but the Word of God. Therefore, the Church must be fed by the Word of God, or else, like its organic metaphorical counterpart, it will wither up and die.
The inception of pastors of congregations who choose to not preach the truth due to its possibly offensive nature and context risks the nourishment of the Church as an organism. Truth must be preached at all costs and in all situations; otherwise, the Church will starve, and its people will be willing to settle for any crumb of bread as their practicing authority. As the prophet of his congregation, the prophet must guide his church to the wealthy spiritual deposit of the Word of God. He must also bring his flock to the “spiritual gym,” so to speak, so that they may exercise the Church and its social function in addition to its understanding of the Word. Indeed, the two are inseparable.
Thirdly and lastly, the Church is socialized through—obviously—its social interaction with the outside world. How do Christians treat those who are not Christians? If the treatment of non-Christians by Christians is anything less than the love which Christ expressed for us upon the Cross, then we are certainly hopeless. Although Jesus sets the standard impossibly high, but his is an example for all of his disciples to follow regardless of their political beliefs. The social aspect of the gospel is crucial so Christianity will understand the world and work with it to accomplish God’s will. We cannot evangelize those whom we cannot understand; therefore, the Church must be socialized by treating the poor, the needy, the hungry, and the homeless as they would Christ Himself.
THE FIVE-FOLD MINISTRY OF THE CHURCH
The office of prophet exists only because of the life and work of Christ. Each of us is given “grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore, it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people” (Ephesians 4:7-16 NRSV; cf. Psalm 68:18). The only reason the prophetic office is in function today is because of the work of God through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
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We cannot evangelize those whom we cannot understand. How does this statement change your perspective of addressing social issues?