Life is much easier in the blogging world when I can just repost others blogs! Another great article.
Since we have been discussing the Gospel and how it shapes our Christian lives, let’s continue the conversation by taking a look at this classic IM post from April, 2007.
It amazes me that the apostles immediately know- they KNOW- that Christianity has to be applied in ways they had never thought before. Perhaps the story in Acts 10 is a window to how the Holy Spirit stirs us up to get off of the roof and down into a Roman’s house.
The Apostles apply the Gospel broadly. There must be a different kind of economics. There must be a different kind of inclusion around the table and in relationships. There must be prayer, breaking bread, teaching doctrine, but there is more. You cannot leave out the issues of hunger, inclusion, assistance, mercy ministries, economics or even political theology. While you can point out the kinds of issues that weren’t addressed, it’s remarkable what kind of issues are addressed…and how they are addressed.
“Christian culture” is always a counter-culture, not a consumer culture, an entertainment culture or a political lobby. “The Church” is a gathering of people loyal to Jesus who believe certain things, but it is a movement of people who apply the gospel to those issues in their midst that demonstrate the meaning of the Kingdom of God.
There is a lot of scholarly controversy over whether the “communal” passages in Acts reflect the teaching of Jesus or whether the Apostles are going beyond what Jesus taught and forcing an application of the gospel that Jesus did not require.
This “either/or” may be missing the point. If a particular form of the application of Jesus’ teaching turns out to be a failure on some level- such as the communal experiment of Acts 2 and 4- that does not mean that it was wrong to conclude “the gospel must be applied and practiced, as well as believed.” If this is a failed “program,” it is not a wrong application of the Gospel. Jesus leads us to issues of ownership, the lordship of mammon and the meaning of being one body. We may not see the Acts “commune” passages repeated throughout the New Testament, but we do see the relevant questions and hear the relevant applications in most of the New Testament letters.
For example, Paul may not have approached the issue of slavery the way a Justice Mission might today pursue the same issue. But does anyone argue that Paul believes Christ does not transform, undermine and put in motion the eventual end of slavery?
This is why I can commend many Christians for their attempts to put the Kingdom of God into practice even if I disagree deeply with their particular application. I have mixed agreement with many liberals and conservatives, but I commend them for seeing that Jesus has a meaning for politics, relationships, community and culture.
This is the kind of “cultural relevance” that many churches and younger leaders are seeking that is ignored or misunderstood by critics. Caricatures always criticize younger leaders and missional churches for seeking to be “cool,” but what is to be said to those who are asking these questions:
What are the pressing human needs in the community that surround us, and how can we help meet those needs?
What are we doing to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the widow and visit the prisoner?
What are the ethics of building when the maintenance of facilities takes away substantial support for mercy ministries?
What priority can we give to supporting denominational programs as we seek to use our resources to become a missional congregation?
How do we connect the gospel as proclamation to the application of the gospel?
How can we make our gospel application meaningful to those who see any application of the gospel as capitulation to liberalism?
How can we keep our application of the gospel from manipulation by those with agendas that are not Christ-centered?
How can the teaching of the faith and the application of the faith in proper balance so that the faith confessed and taught is never displaced by works of any kind?
One other thing is sadly clear: there were and will always be people who do not want the Gospel to change things. They want women in their place, economics ordered as best benefits them, politics left to the politicians and “those people” left to suffer since the poor will always be with us. The only widows who should be cared for are the ones they know. People of different color, different beliefs and different religions aren’t our business. We should grow our church by sticking to our own kind.
That kind of sad thinking- untouched by Jesus and the power of the Spirit will always be around, and those engage in it are usually generous with their views. The application of the Gospel means responding to those kinds of opponents as well. We give an answer, we choose to suffer in order to love, and we keep doing what Jesus would do.