We followers of Jesus Christ, need to be reminded regularly, that while “we have here no enduring city …” that we are, at the same time called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Yes, and while we know that we are “aliens and exiles” (pilgrims and strangers) here, we are at the same time called to be the incarnation of God’s new creation wherever our lot finds us. We also need to be reminded that to be faithful to our calling by Jesus Christ, it can also be very costly, …  even costing us our lives. We are told, in the last book of the Bible, that in the face of the most unbelievable and horrendous circumstances, the people of the Lamb of God overcame by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimonies, even if it cost them their lives.

Most of those who read these Blogs of mine are not living in overtly hostile and anti-Christian cultures and nations. The resistance we face is more subtle. It can prevent a promotion, or put us at odds with those who are ideologically different, or on a different ethical wave-length. I can report that, even as a teaching-pastor of the church for many decades, that there were all kinds of challenges to mute certain of the strong teachings of scripture, or to engage in ecclesiastical politics that took the church off on a tangent in subtle ways.

Our Christian sisters and brothers in China, or in hostile anti-Christian nations, know the daily risks, and are constrained to be “wise and serpents and harmless as doves” and still always live with the possibility of concentration camps, or being deprived of human rights, … and yet they continue to overcome, and Christ’s church continues to infiltrate the dark corners of the nations of this world.

Perhaps in our own post-Christian western culture, the church has become so immunized to its missional calling, that more and more of its former participants find it irrelevant to their desire to be Christ’s overcoming community, and so seek their community in smaller configurations of those who share together their mutual intention of being faithful to their true calling to overcome by “the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony…” Many venerable religious institutions that profess to be Christian, can be totally content with their only mission being the survival of the institution. Don’t be fooled, however. The gospel is out of control. It cannot be contained in stagnant institutions of ‘religious Christianity.’

But, to return to my thesis, one’s faithfulness to Christ comes at a price, and Christ’s followers must not be naïve. So often they find their encouragement and mutual nurture in the company of two or three, or some smaller gathering of those who self-consciously know that they are stewards of the divine nature (II Peter 1:2-4). But idols of popularity and success and security can so easily give one the temptation to be escapists rather than aliens and exiles out of whose lives flow rivers of living water. We always live in that tension. Behind this is the fact that we are always a people abounding in hope, and (insane as it may sound) who also have the capacity to rejoice in tribulation. Be watchful!

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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