“Christians”, I recently overheard someone comment to another, “should neither seen nor heard.”
While potentially an extreme example of what is currently transpiring within society, it nevertheless is one which reflects a sentiment that is only becoming all the more audible. Christians are becoming increasingly marginalised within a society that owes much to the Biblical principles that undergirds it. With those who hold to positions contrary to the preferential flavour of the time feeling shunned, and those daring few who publicly articulate such stances are silenced through a barrage of derogative labels, statements, and expletives.
With such ardent hostility awaiting those who attempt to be faithful to God, it is easy to see why a revival of monasticism would be appealing. However, Christians have not, and have never been, called to adorn themselves with bubble-wrap or throw themselves into isolation. Indeed, to do so would not only be a rejection of a role that Christians are entrusted to carry out, but a selfish betrayal of what Christ achieved on the cross.
Therefore, it is imperative that whilst we acknowledge the change in the dynamic and position of Christianity within the public square, that we simultaneously realise that Christianity must be in the public square. That despite living in a period of relative antagonism towards our faith and the backlash we may receive; we, who profess Christ, have been charged by our creator with telling a unique message of eternal significance to all that we can.
To denote this weighty task, Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 uses the strong language of “ambassadors for Christ”, when referring to all of those who have been reconciled and are now entrusted with the message of reconciling. Such a use of language is much more than simple rhetorical flourish. Rather it is articulating the very role Christians are to play in a world which was, and still is(!), hostile to the Son, and will now be likewise to His followers. Ambassadors, in both the modern day as well as in antiquity, not only convey important messages, of which the gospel has no equal, but ensure that the interests of those they represent are made known. As such, they are never absent from the public sphere. They can not afford to be. Their finger is on the pulse. The stakes are too high.
In similar manner, God’s Prophets also performed such duties. They sought to convey a message of reconciliation in that they exhorted people to be reconciled with God. Yet as part of the message, they spoke on the nature of Israel’s and Judea’s ills. Outlining precisely where the nations had diverged from God’s established standards and order. Many of the Prophet’s tenures demonstrated their drive to ensure that the Lord’s interests were clearly known, even in times where such messages were met with hostility. Needless to say, many were persecuted, some were killed.
Yet, understanding our role as a messenger or ambassador of Christ should help in two ways. The first is that it should establish that there is no compartmentalisation of our lives between this role that we’ve been entrusted with and our own lives. In fact, the totality of our lives are to be for Him who died for us and was raised again. Just as an ambassador needs to ensure that his words and actions are always measured and reflective of the nation he represents; Christians, likewise, must remember that there is not a time that they are not representing Christ. This is not only in regards to the individual relationships that God has given us, but in society at large. Christians need to ensure that God’s ‘interests’ are made known, especially when they are being transgressed. Indeed, when a Christian voices up on an issue which challenges God’s established order, such as in the case of same-sex marriage, not only are they carrying out their role as an ambassador, but they are performing an act of stewardship in seeking to preserve that which God has created, and that which He has also imparted to us to manage. Yet, performing such a duty is nothing more than simply living our life as a sojourner and representative of God’s kingdom.
This totality of approach feeds very much into the second point: The church needs to have a comprehensive and overarching approach to the public sphere. Particularly, if it understands that the totality of the Christian is to witness for Christ and speak the things of God. Then, logically, it needs to examine the outworking of what that looks like in the entirety of their lives. It must grapple with the question ‘What does a Christian’s life look like under the Lordship of Christ’. This requires the entire dismantling of the worldview and the assumptions so prevalent in the church today, which is a syncretic blend of a worldly understanding with a Christian veneer. It needs to redefine the world, knowledge, and life, only by the way God has defined it. The church is, and has always been the bearer, of God’s truth by which all humans ought to live and this requires the church to declare Christ’s sovereignty over every single facet of human life without exception. This has an implication in every corner of public life: schools, work, and the home.
To run further with the ambassador metaphor, the church is Christ’s embassy. Whereas, the Christian is an ambassador, representing Christ in the lives, both public and private, of others; the church provides the uniformity in approach. Instructing and teaching the framework of how to fulfil the divinely-appointed role. Indeed, if the local church is not equipping its people in how to engage publicly in the world around it, then it is failing one of its roles. Neither the faith of a Christian or the existence of a church were meant to be private.
Christianity is, by its very nature, public. Those who confess Christ must convey this message of reconciliation to which we’ve been entrusted. If we do not, we selfishly hide the way of eternity to those who we deny, and undermine Christ’s mission of the cross which calls all people everywhere to repent and believe unto Him as Lord. To do so, we need to ensure that all of God’s word is heard and spoken on, not limited to the confines of our own buildings.
Originally written for and appeared in the 2017 Spring Edition of Fellow Workers.