Saturday, February 1, 2020

What is our mission?

There is such a quandary over why the Church exists and what is our mission as the Church.  Some of the confusion rests over the conflict between what we want to do or think we should be doing and what the Lord has set out in His Word.  We know that we are to save something but we are not sure what it is we are to save.  Are we to save society or the environment or souls? 

If our goal is to save society, then much of what is distinctive in the Christian message is largely irrelevant to that purpose.  Do we need an incarnate Savior to save society?  Do we need an atonement for sin to save society?  Do we need the resurrection to save society?  Much of Christianity has decided that doctrine is either unnecessary or it gets in the way of the task of preserving society and its worthy institutions.

If our task is to preserve the world made by the Creator, how much of Scripture is applicable to that task?  Stewardship and the preservation of a more pristine environment against the onslaught of man and climate change do not require a Messiah, a cross, or an empty tomb.  In fact, all of these are not only irrelevant to this task but actually serve as enemies of this cause.  Much of Christianity has decided that preserving the world and our environment does not need distinctly Christian doctrine or perspective.

The only things that require an incarnate Savior, an atoning work, and a resurrection is the saving of people from sin, from death, and from alienation from our God.  I am not at all saying that Christians should be oblivious to what is going on in the world around them or inconsiderate of their role as stewards of God's good creation but the Church of Jesus Christ exists for one exclusive purpose -- to save people through the redeeming work of God in His Son.  To that end, we confess the creed and pray.  To this cause we baptize, absolve, and commune upon these mysteries given by God to bring the unbelieving to faith, to justify them in Christ, and to sanctify them in preparation for their entrance into the world to come.  Why is this controversial?

It is controversial because the unique purpose of God in establishing the Church through the atoning work of His Son and calling sinners to life in His name actually means confronting sin and death -- something that is seldom popular or welcome in a world which would rather redefine sin into virtue and make friends with death.  It is controversial because the world gladly welcomes the partnership of doctrineless Christians in pursuit of the cause of the moment but it is has no room or place for the hate speech that would challenge the primacy of feelings and desire.  It is controversial because we in the Church often feel like we are not making any real difference unless we are attacking a physical problem with a physical solution that will do something in the moment.  We have, in the Church, given up on the idea that the eternal outweighs the present and so the evangelization of the world is a less urgent and a less relevant cause to many than mirroring the labors of the secular world to build a better today (that is, one in which feeling and preference reign supreme) and preserving our environment by reducing man's footprint globally.

I will admit that too long I feared that unless I could provide help to every family in need, answer every urgent call for money, food, medicine, shelter, and want, I was not doing much of anything.  And then I began to discover the fact that the unique message of the Church is doctrinal and the unique purpose of the Church is to proclaim the Kingdom of God through the Word and Sacraments.  Therein lies the one and only holy purpose of the Church's existence and of my ministry.  It is not exclusive in that I am blind to or unconcerned by my neighbor's need but it is the recognition that improving the world or society, however laudable, is neither the sole nor the primary purpose for which Christ established His Church or set apart the Ministry.  What is required to evangelize and to serve our neighbor is to teach the faith faithfully and live out the truths that we confess in response to this eternal Gospel.  Apparently this is rather controversial.  It should not be. 

I cannot love my neighbor into the Kingdom of God.  Only God can do this and He loves us into His Kingdom by the proclamation of His Word through which the Spirit is at work.  Because I am in the Kingdom of God, I will endeavor to love my neighbor as Christ has loved me and my neighbor will benefit as will the greater world around me but as important as this is, faith comes by hearing the Word of God. 

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