Woman to Woman: The politics of the spiritual life PDF Print E-mail

By Terry Schlossberg, PPL Executive Director
Reprinted from Presbyterians Pro-Life NEWS, Winter 1999

History is filled with accounts of Christians planted in the midst of paganism in order to bring Light into the darkness. And the accounts often demonstrate the effectual integration of piety and politics.

When I was in college the deaths of missionaries killed by Aucas of South America was a world shocking event. One of the wives, Elizabeth Elliott, wrote the history of that event in a book called Through Gates of Splendor. And she did more. She went herself to live among those murderers and win them to a new way of life in Christ. She never questioned the call of God to live among those who rebelled against God.

It is not far-fetched to compare our calling in the Church to the calling of missionaries. There is ample biblical support for confronting the darkness with the Light both in pagan societies and in places where the salt has lost its saltiness and those identified as the people of God have become rebellious. That is the calling of those who pledge faithfulness to Jesus Christ in the mainline Protestant denominations today. We are not exempt from the responsibility for bringing the Light. We share the guilt if we do not work zealously and persistently for the renewal of biblical faithfulness in our denomination.

The need for a commitment to renewal because of the evils that have befallen the Church is nothing new in history

John Calvin wrote a lengthy tract called, "The Necessity of Reforming the Church." His list of "evils" which had overtaken the Church of the 16th century involved the very heart of the life of the Church. Nothing less than that could have led to the radical action that became the Reformation. Calvin's tract focuses on three principal areas: the need to restore biblical doctrine and practice regarding the proper means of worship, the correct administration of the sacraments, and the government of the Church. Calvin clearly understood the necessity of the reform of Church government for the proper living out of the Gospel. He had none of the aversion to the Church's political life that has turned so many of us into passive pietists.

William Wilberforce, convert to Christianity shortly after his election to the English Parliament in the 18th century, became a leader in ending slavery in his country through legislative action. He was also a major evangelical influence on England. He was so effective in propagating the Gospel among his own countrymen and teaching its application to the living out of their lives that at the time of his death he was called "The conscience of the nation." He, like Calvin, understood the importance of the transformation of both souls and institutions.

Both Jesus and Paul warned about false shepherds and told the disciples to guard the flock and defend the Truth.

Discipline and legislation as fidelity

It may be much more difficult to understand our spiritual responsibility to win a denomination back to faithfulness through disciplinary action and use of the legislative process of the Church than through preaching and teaching and ministries of love and acceptance. But both approaches must be used if we are to see justice restored, lives committed to Christ, and Christians become faithful disciples who in turn are carriers of the Light.

Do not faint at the prospect of taking proper disciplinary action. Do not shrink from the resistance you expect to encounter by putting forth an overture in your presbytery. These are acts of faithfulness that are a necessary part of living as disciples in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

 

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