Confessing Christ crucified
I first came to consider Christianity as a serious life choice in my late teens, partly due to the witness and compassion of a group of Christian friends.
After a good deal of consideration and soul-searching, and at age 19, I committed my life to Jesus Christ.
I had to get past the sticking point that Christ’s call to discipleship, the call to follow, would have costs as well as benefits. It took time for me to decide to forgo the attraction of other paths.
The choice was sharpened for me by reading Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship. Bonhoeffer helped me realise that the teachings of Jesus in particular and scripture in general spoke in a forceful way into the cruelty and injustice of many societies, including those of Apartheid South Africa where I lived.
I became convinced that we would be a more just and humane society if Jesus was Lord rather than Caesar!
Ever since then I have felt that the life in all its fullness that Jesus came to offer (John 10:10) was something that we appropriate not only by intellectual belief, or merely by emotional engagement (though both are important), but by following in faith.
He pointed out that it was not enough to simply call him Lord but to actually do the will of his heavenly father. Jesus teaching in Matthew Chapter 25, verses 31-46, also indicates that “salvation” or “life in all its fullness” is for those who act with compassion on behalf of the weak and disadvantaged.
I am prompted to share this due to feedback about my previous Insights column, where I outlined some of the things we stand for in the Uniting Church, such as justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, asylum-seekers and disadvantaged children; excellent disaster relief chaplaincy, aged care and ministry with children, young people and families, and the affirmation and support of multiculturalism.
Some respondents pointed out that I did not include that we stand for Jesus Christ, and that the things I affirmed could be found in many community agencies.
I apologise to those who found this disturbing. I thought our standing for Christ could be assumed … and I was wrong.
In fact, I trust that all that we do flows from our faith in Christ and obedience to his will. If we were not standing up for the disadvantaged and vulnerable it would call into question how serious we are about standing for the one who declared that he was bringing “Good news to the poor”.
That others in the community who do not share our faith perspective do likewise should be a cause for celebration for, as Jesus himself said, those who are not against us are for us.
I commend to all Uniting Church people our Basis of Union, a clear and inspiring statement of who and what we stand for, including, “The Uniting Church affirms that every member of the church is engaged to confess the faith of Christ crucified and to be his faithful servant” (from paragraph 13).
I am sure that it would help our common understanding of our ethos if we could take it as read.
The Rev. Dr Brian Brown is Moderator of the Synod of New South Wales and the ACT.