On Saturday, April 16th I attended the LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) Michigan District’s 2016 theological conference, “Let’s Talk Life.” Issues that were discussed were abortion, euthanasia, miscarriage, and marriage. The past couple years have been filled with constant debates over these issues. I’m not going to be talking about what the Christian stances are because those are already known. People already know Christians are rightly against abortion, gay marriage, and mostly euthanasia. I’d just be beating a dead horse if I wrote an article about these issues. I refuse to talk about the Christian stance because, as I said, it’s already known, and I also refuse to talk about my personal stance because of Paul’s words, “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels” (2 Timothy 2:23). So please, don’t use this article as a place to make your political arguments because 1) this is not the place for that, 2) that is not the purpose of this article, and 3) I won’t read them. My biggest take away from this year’s theological conference was how the Church is no longer the Church anymore. Society knows what the Church stands for, at least politically, but it does not know who the Church stands for. Society knows we stand for life because of the common politically conservative affiliation, but they don’t know we stand for Jesus Christ because, well, we no longer stand for Him. I know, this is a challenging statement, and I’ve probably ruffled a few feathers, but allow your faith to be challenged for a moment (2 Cor. 13:5). I don’t have any definite answers in how exactly the Church can be the Church again, but I do call us to reflect on our own lives within the Church. Perhaps by this self-reflection, we can begin to change the Church.
The Role of the Church
What is the purpose of the Church? Is it to make political demands or preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Hopefully you agree it’s the latter, because that is the Church’s only role. If you’ve read my articles before, you might be familiar with the two kingdom Lutheran theology. God rules over two kingdoms: the right (vertical) kingdom and the left (horizontal) kingdom. The right kingdom is exclusive only to Christians, which is where God meets us in grace and forgiveness. The Church’s role as an organization is only in that vertical relationship in bringing God’s grace and forgiveness to believers. She does not involve herself in the left kingdom—that is, in horizontal relationships with people (secularism); that’s what people in their vocations are for. The left kingdom is both where God keeps the world in order through the laws of physics, the government, and other means, as well as how we Christians treat our neighbor.
So at issue is how we as Christians can influence the morals of society to make the world a better place to live in. Again, it isn’t the Church’s role as an organization, but it is certainly the individual Christian’s role. The Church is where we receive the sacraments, the forgiveness of sins, and edification through various means of fellowship. What we learn as the Church is what the individual Christian incorporates into the secular world through their vocations.
The New Commandment
Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). It’s one of Jesus’ simplest statements, but with tremendous depth. The best way we can change society towards something better is just by being Christian. If we want the views on issues such as abortion and gay marriage to change to what Scripture says, then we first need to start living like we’re actually Christians. Luther’s theology on vocation discusses each person’s different roles in life—student, employee, brother, sister, boyfriend/girlfriend, wife/husband, son, daughter, etc. All these roles and more are our vocations, and there is no greater way to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ than in developing relationships. Keep in mind we cannot formulate a completely Christian society, and neither should that be our goal. But we can bring more people into the church by how we love one another. If this happens, we just might begin to see society change towards something better. The more people we bring into the Church, the more people will stand for God’s stance on life. The only reason why I’m Christian today is because of the love Christians showed me all those years ago. I experienced God’s love through their love. Today, I hardly see that love in Christians even amongst ourselves (perhaps most evident in the GUG community group). This is a problem that needs to be addressed.
The Condition of the Church
The greatest image we have of how the Church is meant to be comes from Acts 2:42-47:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.