Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Only Social Ill (The Ministers of God, Part 1)

"[God] has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation.... [We] are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were beseeching you by us. We beseech you on Christ's behalf: be ye reconciled to God." II Cor. 5:18-20

There is only one ministry in Christianity, and every Christian is called to it. It can and does manifest itself in many different forms and expressions, but the base is the same: the ministry is about "reconciliation". Now, what these verses make clear is that this reconciliation is not about income inequality or racial tension or class warfare. Rather, it is about the deathly separation between God and man and how that separation is bridged by Christ (vs. 21). In short (and interestingly enough), our ministry of reconciliation has nothing to do with our preconceived social ills but instead with a great and terrible spiritual ill, i.e., the alienation of man from God (and not from his rights or his self or other people's money). Our ministry is the proclamation of the gospel, and the gospel is that Christ died for us to bring us back to God so that we might live for Him (II Cor. 5:14-15).

This is simply practical mysticism (that hard yet necessary art). The gospel is the only solution for Sin, and Sin is the only true social ill, especially (but not solely) because it breeds all other social ills. It is Sin that makes the capitalist greedy for wealth and the socialist greedy for another man's wealth. In is Sin that engenders the hatred inherent in the racism and classism found in all races and classes. It is Sin that creates and feeds the pride and arrogance that informs all sectarianism and sexism found in all sects and sexes. It is Sin that breeds the corruption of politics, the anger of ideologues, and the idiocy of talking heads. It is Sin that creates crime and poverty, and it is Sin that makes both rich and poor turn to crime. Sin is the fountainhead of all the woes of the world, and only a return to our God can cleanse that spring and make it whole again.

Brothers and sisters, hear me. Build your shelters for the homeless and hopeless, and empty yourself in all shades of righteous social activism. Write your stories and your songs, and shape the culture with your precious and peculiar images and ideas. Live lives of holy morality, pure and upright and courageous amidst a perverse and crooked generation. Follow fiercely whatever unique facet of God's grace that has been entrusted to you (I Pet. 4:10). But know this: you are not here to follow some pet project of your own or to be swept up head over heels in every passing fad or fashion of politics and society. You are not here to make disciples to your own private ends. Rather, you are here to serve in God's ministry of reconciliation, to preach the gospel in word and deed and thought and in every way that you live and breath. If you do what you do (whatever it may be) for anything less than the proclamation of peace with the King of Kings, a peace wrought by the striven hands of Christ, then you are merely fitting bandages to broken bones, and all of your work is vain.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

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