Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
I have run into a number of issues and causes over the years put forth as being things "we should be involved in." I have first-hand experience of being "involved in" a number of such worthy causes. But it is not the worthy causes that form the foundation of righteousness.
Many will come to me on that day saying, "Lord, Lord, did we not..." [and there follows a list of worthy issues and causes]. I will say to them, "Depart from me you workers of iniquity, I never knew you."
In his thumbnail sketch of the gospel, as in his elaborations that lasted several hours, George Fox painted a picture of a people whose business it was to know and follow Jesus who is present in the midst of those gathered in his authority. The eight words, "Christ has come to teach his people himself," is a portrait in miniature of this people. This picture shows Jesus out in front clearing the way and establishing the path while his followers follow him.
The Christianity of today, like that prevalent in the 17th century portrays a different scene. Man is out if front blazing the way for others to follow. This path is often littered with noble and worthy causes. We are urged to save the environment, promote equality between men and women, establish equal rights among the different human races, or work for the relief of this or that minority faction of society.
But can this man-led Christianity proclaim, "Thus says the Lord...?"
The most they can do is quote some Bible passage, which is no where near the same thing!
If I am out in front expecting you to follow me, I can't say, "Thus says the Lord..." If I am out in front, the Lord is not in the picture. If Jesus is in the picture, he is the leader and commander, not the one playing the supporting role.
When man presents you the menu of noble causes there is no basis for making a choice, there is no guarantee that participating in one cause or the other will result in the coming of the Kingdom of God on Earth. And thus begins a never ending debate between the champions of various causes.
But we do not need to sink into that bog. Christ is come to teach his people himself. His followers announce, in word and deed, that the Kingdom of God is at hand. And it is this Kingdom of God that sets the affairs of man in right order. These people live in the authority of "Thus says the Lord."
The difference between being involved in worthy causes and obedience to "Thus says the Lord" is the difference between the kingdom of Satan and the Kingdom of God.
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Hello Ellis. I think that you are correct in writing that our leader is Christ, and not causes that we may deem worthy. I do think it's very important to distinguish between "a cause" and a response to injustice or need. For example, I think that Fox responded to injustices when he admonished people to treat one another fairly (to pay just wages; to exercise civic authority fairly, whether magistrates, judges, or kings; to enact just laws; to respect women's humanity), and yet these were not "causes" as you describe them; they were immediate responses to injustices that were an offense to Christ, and thus to Fox as well as any other who knew Christ.
Witnessing to the truth as a member of the body of Christ may look the same to an outsider as championing a cause, because both counter injustice, but they are not at all the same: the former is obedience to Christ and the latter is obedience to a human ideal. If we are to judge and be of use to Christ, we must be able to distinguish these two motives in ourselves: Christ from the ideal, the pure from the defiled, the wheat from the chaff. Otherwise we dwell in confusion, the kingdom of Satan, and will behave unjustly toward others.
Championing a cause is a secular equivalent of unquestioning adherence to biblical or traditional social norms. All are standards that cannot approach the living standard of Christ. So great care is needed in discerning between these static guidelines and the true standard known only in the living Christ. The action itself doesn't identify origin, and so carelessly assigning false motives to another is a danger one should try to avoid.
Thanks, Pat. Excellent points, all.