To look at many Christians who are soft and effeminate and sweet one would think that their ambition is to be the honeypot of the world. They sweeten and sugar the bitterness of life with an all too easy conception of a loving God. They soften the harshness of guilt with an appallingly childish romanticism. They have retouched hell out of existence and only heaven is on the horizon. When it comes to the devil and temptation they stick their heads in the sand and they go about with a constant, set smile on their faces, pretending that they have overcome the world. For them the kingdom of God, that comes with the savage agonies and travail of history, the excesses of the Anti-christ, and the groans of martyrs, has become an innocuous garden of flowers and their faith a sweet honey they gather from its blossoms. And this is also the reason why the world turns away, sickened and disgusted, from these Christians. People in the world know that life is harder than that, and therefore they know that it is more decent to bear the bitterness of it without sugaring it over.
~ HELMUT THIELICKE, LIFE CAN BEGIN AGAIN: SERMONS ON THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT
On a recent visit to Geneva I found some old reports in the archives of the new WCRC. Here is an extract from Sao Paulo Story: The Eighteenth General Council of the Alliance of the Reformed Churches Throughout the World Holding the Presbyterian Order (1960) (being the official report of the Assembly in Brazil, 1959).
These recommendations fall at the end of the Report on Sub-Theme IV~ THE SERVICE OF THE STATE
THESE THINGS WE SAY TO THE CHURCHES:
- Your primary task is to honor God and to win men to Jesus Christ and to teach them how to serve their Lord. From this it follows that your most important service to the State is to raise up citizens of unselfish loyalty and intelligent commitment to the common good who are the greatest need of every State.
- You should teach and encourage your members to hear and heed the clear call of Christ to social. and political service, remembering that the Lord Jesus is served in such places as social clubs, directors’ board rooms, trade union halls, market places, universities and legislatures as well as under the church’s roof.
- Your primary relationship as a Church to those of your membership who become officials or authorities in the State is in pastoral service to them. You should pray for them, encourage them to see their work as under God, and surround them with Christian love, not forgetting other leaders of the State that are outside your fellowship.
- As a Church you have the duty to speak to the State in behalf of justice, freedom, and mercy for all men of every race and station, so becoming the salt and the light which the State requires for its preservation and inspiration.
- As a Church you have the duty to listen to the Word of God and on the basis of your spiritual insight to speak to the issues of economics and politics in the light of God’s sovereign purposes and out of the insights you receive from the world-wide fellowship of the one Church of Jesus Christ.
- As a Church you have also the duty to hearten, to assist spiritually, and to pray for all those who because of sincere Christian conscience resist the State and are in danger, persecution, or suffering on account of their resistance even when their action is contrary to majority judgment. So you will keep your prophets.
- Because of what you are, let your political interest and activity be centered on those issues and causes which help establish the civil conditions of responsible freedom for men to serve their sovereign God.
AND THESE WARNINGS WE GIVE TO THE CHURCHES:
- Never confuse or identify the Church with any established regime or revolutionary party, however just either may appear to be, remembering that God’s kingdom is his.
- Never confuse or allow to be confused your Church’s doctrine or order with ideologies such as capitalism, communism, or socialism. Nevertheless your Church must think and speak in thought forms relevant to your times.
- Never use the power, influence, or prestige of your Church, whether these be great or small, to win from the State benefits for your own Church which would damage the interests of others.
- Never seek to use the power of the State to enforce upon any man, against his will or conscience, your Church’s interests, ends, or programs.
AND TO THE MEMBERS OF OUR CHURCHES WE SAY THIS:
- Be very courageous to serve the Lord Christ as a member of his body and as a citizen of your State despite whatever danger or persecution you may encounter.
- You have the duty to make informed political decisions and act upon them, but be ever careful not to confuse your personal, family, class, racial, national or Church’s interests with the will of God, remembering Christ’s warnings against hypocrisy.
- Let your humility as a forgiven sinner keep you teachable, since God is not served by arrogance.
- In all your service to the State remember the poor and the underprivileged, the outcast, the prisoner, and the weak, for it is in serving them that you can serve Christ.
- Let your hope and expectation rest in the eternal God, remembering that you are a pilgrim and a servant, so that you may be modest and merciful in political victory and courageous and indomitable in political defeat.
- Love your enemies.
I was browsing Religion Online today – a wonderfully simple website that provides a staggering wealth of material. Some highlights from this morning:
1. All chapters from this gem of a book: ‘The Use of the Bible in Theology/Evangelical Options’. I especially enjoyed reading:
- An Evangelical and Catholic Methodology by Robert E. Webber
- The Use of the Bible in Theology by John Howard Yoder
2. Gems from Walter Brueggemann: