THE CHURCH – ITS RADICAL PRINCIPLES, PRIORITIES AND PERSPECTIVES

As we have seen, the church is distinct from the world in terms of its identity and its relationship with God, and this distinction puts the church in an inevitable division from the world and confrontation with the world. Now we must also add that the church is distinct from the world in terms of its principles, priorities and perspectives.   

Although the church is intended by God to be missional and to reflect the incarnational presence of Christ in the world we must never assume that this means identifying with the principles, priorities and perspectives of the world.

The Bible is very firm and very clear about this. For example: 

Jesus Christ deliberately rejected the world’s priorities and methodology [Matthew 4:1-11] and he commands the church to follow him. For Jesus the 'end' never justified the 'means'. Pragmatism and promised success never justify engaging in actions contrary to the word of God and the honour due to God.

As believers in Christ, we are commanded to reject the performance-based religious principles on which the religious world operates [1Corinthians 1:26-31; Colossians 2:8,20-23]. Grace, not works, is the operating principle of Christ's kingdom of which we are members [Romans 5:17).

As believers, we are commanded to so live that we shine like lights in the darkness of the world [Matthew 5:13-16; Ephesians 5:8,9; Philippians 2:15]. Light, not darkness, is to chartactize our thoughts, words, attitudes and actions.

As believers, because of God's mercy by which we are saved, we are commanded not to be squashed into the world’s mould, but to be continually transformed by the renewing of our minds [Romans 12:1-2].

Similarly, as believers, we are commanded to no longer think in the futile, darkened ignorant mindset of the ‘Gentiles’ [Ephesians 4:17-24], but to be made new in the attitudes of our minds, knowing that we are created to be like God.

As believers, we are commanded to ‘put off’ our sinful attributes and actions and to put on the moral attributes and actions which the indwelling Holy Spirit is working to produce in us [Galatians 5:16-26; Ephesians 4:22-5: 21; Colossians 3:5-17]. 

As believers, we are to say ‘no’ to sin and all moral corruption [Titus 2:12; James 1:27; 2Peter 1:4; 2:20].

As believers, we are to live as aliens and strangers in the world abstaining from the sins of the world [1Peter 2:11].

How are we to do this? How is the church to embrace and persistently live by these radical principles, priorities and perspectives in the context of our world? A world that lives and thinks in direct opposition to these principles? Only by our faith in Jesus Christ; that is, only by the One on whom our faith is focused, Jesus the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us:

'This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. this is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God' [1 John 5:3 - 5].

'They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb ...' [Revelation 12:11].

The church is thus challenged, commanded and equipped to embrace and to implement radical principles, priorities and perspectives which expose and express its confrontational distinction from the world, including its confrontational distinction from the religious world.

In this it must follow Christ, who, although he identified with us humans with great empathy and compassion, did not identify with our principles, priorities and perspectives. Rather he identified with the principles, priorities and perspectives of his Father in heaven.

Even so must the church.

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2009, 2021