Tag: Christian Education, Ecclesiology, Sanctification
The ultimate goal of the earthly Church after the befalling of God‘s Holy Spirit, according to my best knowledge of the Scripture, is to embody the kingdom of God on earth. This church, described by the Apostle Paul, is the body of Christ (Col 1:24) and of which Christ himself is also the head (Eph 5:23). Thus we follow His footsteps and the example He set for us not only by praying the prayer He taught us « may your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven » (Mat 6:10; Lk 11:2), but also by sheer obedience to God’s will and calling. Such obedience, besides our prayer as direct communication to God, involves fourfold Christian ministry that carries out the kingdom of God on earth (progressively or defensively (the ultimate consummation of this kingdom awaits the Parousia of Christ): ministry to God, ministry to the world, ministry of the Word, and ministry to the Church.
First, that the church exists for the glory of God is self-evident, for God is praiseworthy. « Praise be to the Lord », for Naomi, it was because « this day He has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer » (Ruth 4:14); for Jethro and Solomon the king of Israel, it was because He rescued us from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh (Ex 18:10; 1 King 8:10); for the Psalmist, it was because « for he showed his wonderful love to me when I was in a besieged city » (Pss 31:21). We have every reason to praise God, and the church is the place to worship and minister to God, because we are chosen to be in His church to do so. Second, the church also ministers to the world, since we are « light of the world » and does not hide to it (Mat 5:14). The Bible also tells us to minister to those in need and in suffering (Ex 22:25; Lev 19:10; 23:22; 25:35; Mk 12:21; Lk 4:18; 2 Cor 9:9; Gal 2:10). Such understanding derives from the Scripture, that is, the word of God has been entrusted to us. So thirdly, the church must devote itself to the ministry of God’s living word, studying, proclaiming, applying, and recontextualizing it. Just like the apostle says that « I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power » (Eph 3:7), the whole church as hermeneutic community is also the guardian and speaker of God’s Truth to its contemporaries (2 Tim 1:14; 1 Pe 1:12). Finally, the church ministers to itself in the pastoral and communal sense. Using an anatomical/organic analogy, it is just like that the brain, the heart, and the four members of the body all serve each other, so that « the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work » (Eph 4:16).
On the other hand, the church is also the Assembly of God’s people, consisted of sinner-saints first justified by faith in the cross of Jesus and then empowered by the Holy Spirit for this fourfold ministry as they grow into Christian maturity.
To identify the profile of mature Christian is not a simple task; individual standard may vary in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, historical context, and socio-cultural background (and all the existential conditions exposed by the Heideggerian Dasein) of the Christian. It is apparent, for example, that the Scripture has portrayed different ideals for male and female (cf. Eph 5:22ff.), or for child and parent (cf. Eph 6:1ff, Pro 17:6). However, when we limited the target to grown adults, particular patterns can still be observed through the abundant profiles of biblical figures, and the study of relevant scriptural prescriptions. Given the fact that human as image bearers of God still have shared commonalities, my tentative profile of a maturing Christian adult as minister (in the sense that embraces all lay believers) of God’s church contains the following qualities: 1) ability to suffer and endure; 2) unselfishness and sacrificial love; 3) kindness and thoughtfulness; 4) humility; 5) wise decision making through Counsel Holy Spirit; 6) holiness and integrity; 7) resolution and self-discipline; 8) forgiveness and the reconciliation; 9) harmonious family relationship.
- First it is important for believers to know that we do not believe in God in order to have a better quality of life. As German theologians Bonheoffer and Moltmann radically pointed out, Christians are called by God to suffer and imitate his cross (Mat 16:24), so that our faith « –of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed » (1 Pe 1:7).
- And such mature Christian is not only able to suffer, but is also willing to suffer and sacrifice for others, for he/she can really appreciate what Christ has done for him/her (1 Jn 3:16; Jn 15:13).
- In everyday life, this unselfish love will be demonstrated with a Christian sensitivity to other people. This thoughtfulness and kindness is the ability to put oneself into other’s shoes, exemplified by the weeping of Jesus, who despite his fullness of divine nature, at Lazarus’ death cried out of sympathy with those who were in tears all around him, as well as from a deep sense of the misery sin had brought upon human nature (Jn 11:35). A mature Christian develops a genuine concern and sensitivity for other people’s wellbeing, whether spiritual or physical.
- An encouragement from Paul in the Philippians is that « our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus » (Phil 2:5), that is, being humble (Phil 2:6-8). Jesus himself confirms this encouragement with his own version that we should « take his yoke upon us and learn from him » who is meek and humble in heart (Mat 11:29).
- Besides these, we still have a lot more to learn from Jesus’ model. But most notably are His wisdom and the total reliance on the counsel of Holy Spirit (Mat 4:1; Mk 1:12; Lk 10:21; Act 10:38). Today we do not have for everything he precedent found in Jesus to follow, but a mature Christian seeks the counsel of the Holy Spirit for a wise decision-making (Gal 5:25; Eph 2:22; 6:18).
- A mature Christian then will be honest, being neither deceitful nor deceived. This should be explained under the category of « holiness and integrity ». While Jesus « committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth » (1 Pe 2:22), a mature Christian consecrates his/her life as a living sacrifice to the holy God (Rom 12:2). Though as a fallible human being his/her conduct cannot be completely sinless, but he/she confesses these sins in prayer to God under the illumination of Holy Spirit and does not indulges the pleasure of sin (Lk 11:35).
- Such non-indulgent and upward lifestyle, however, will entail resolution and self-discipline. It is one of the fruits produced by the Spirit as self-control (Gal 5:22-23). The counter-indulgent exhortation made by Paul in Rom 13:13, in particular, has the historical relevance to St. Augustine’s conversion and regeneration experience.
- Another aspect of Christian integrity will be typified and manifested as forgiveness and reconciliation He/she carries out Jesus’ teaching about forgiving other person « seventy-seven times » (Mat 18:22) and takes the initiative to reconcile with the person, as God has done to us through His son (Eph 2:16). Usually reconciliation is not an easy thing and it requires that both sides (not merely the more mature one!) truly come before God. But typically a mature Christian is also a nice people-person. He/she wills and has the wisdom to relate to others in a healthy way.
- This personal relationship, when embodied in a familial context, will be that a lovely couple lives together harmoniously rearing their pious offspring in a godly way. The Scripture addresses household code on different places and from different aspects (husband-wife, master-servant, parent-child, etc). Though these passages are far from being an exhaustive list of ethical norms regarding familial and social relationships, it emphasizes « family » as essential unit in the Church as God’s house. A family composed with a male and a female not only reflects the creation order by God (cf. Gen 1:27ff; 5:2ff) but is also where God’s salvation plan takes place (Lk 1-2).
All these, as I believe, are the quality that the life of a Christian man or woman should demonstrate. This profile, as I mentioned, is a general rather than a comprehensive one, and it can nevertheless be supplemented according to the specific context (economic, historical, cultural, age group, ethnical, denominational…) that the Christian individual is situated. But above all, I hope this profile will help those who minister in the church and those who seek spiritual growth in the church with a clearer goal to work on.
Images tirés de : Galerie d’art au Musée du Louvre et Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Screen Shot