If you want to know how a community of faith should live…1 Corinthians 13 provides a deep and intense picture for us. It also provides a huge challenge. Simply put…a church must do more than believe! The church must be a church of faith, hope and most importantly, love. We Christians may possess any and even many spiritual gifts…but…without love, each gift is useless. The same is true for the gathered body of Christ…the church.
What good is it to believe in Christ – the epitome of love himself – if hate is harbored individually or in the church? Paul uses the word love – agape – meaning, love of the undeserving…love that gives. The reality of this love for us as Christians and the Church is found in Romans 5:8, “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”
The Church must do more than believe… I’ve been reading lately about Auschwitz and the internal crisis the Jewish people had with other humans who wanted to eliminate the entire Jewish population from the face of the earth and, yet, go to church on Sunday…Nazis reading Scripture and singing hymns along with German Christians who “exalted the racially pure nation and the rule of Hitler as God’s will for the German people” (PCUSA Confession of Faith – Declaration of Barmen, May 1934).
A Church of faith is not measured by it’s successes – Why? Because God’s definition of success and the world’s definition are diametrically opposing. God’s idea of success for individuals and his Church is the cross…agape love…love of the undeserving…love that gives. In May 1934 some in the churches resisted. Among those few determined church leaders who did oppose the church’s captivity to National Socialism were pastors Hans Asmussen, Karl Koch, Karl Iraruer, and Martin Niemoller, and theologian Karl Barth.
The Church in this world is the Church under the sign of the cross…where faith, hope and love combine to lead all who claim to follow Christ into the world. This Sunday…as you go OUT the doors of First Presbyterian Church you will be going into a world that is begging for faith, hope and love. The Church must do more than believe…
While I encourage all to read a confession of faith prepared in a terribly atrocious period of time, I offer the following – Sections 8.17 and 8.18 regarding “The Church”:
“The Christian Church is the congregation of the brethren in which Jesus Christ acts presently as the Lord in Word and Sacrament through the Holy Spirit. As the church of pardoned sinners, it has to testify in the midst of a sinful world, with its faith as with its obedience, with its message as with its order, that it is solely his property, and that it lives and wants to live solely from his comfort and from his direction in the expectation of his appearance. We reject the false doctrine, as though the church were permitted to abandon the form of its message and order to its own pleasure or to changes in prevailing ideological and political convictions.” Amen