Are we really called to care about the world and individuals around us? There are two ways Christians commonly choose to relate to society. The first is known as the Spiritual Gospel which says that Christians should remove themselves from society lest they become tainted. Here they become ‘too heavenly minded for any earthly good’. The second is the Social Gospel where Christians relate to the world as ‘problem solvers’, trying to solve all the world’s issues. Here they risk becoming ‘too earthly minded for any heavenly good’.
So, on the one hand is Church as monastery, on the other is Church as NGO. Both of those models have serious and obvious problems. Thankfully there is another way. This is the Biblical way as outlined by Paul in his letter to Titus and the church in Crete.
How the Church Should Relate to Society
In this sermon, Roydon Frost opens up Titus 3 (see other sermons on Titus here). He explores how the passage presents us with three clear messages about the Church. Firstly, the Church is pro-government. Secondly, the Church is civic-minded and thirdly, the Church comes in peace.
We are not called to save the world. You are not the Messiah. but you are called to do the good that’s in front of you
In terms of the Church being civic-minded Roydon explains we are not called to save the world. “You are not the Messiah. but you are called to do the good that’s in front of you. To meet the needs of this one. That means picking up the piece of paper. Letting the taxi in. Asking the homeless man, or women, their name. Start there. Who knows where the Lord will take it.”
Why are we Called to Care?
But what is the Biblical logic behind our being called to care? Roydon explains that as we engage with our culture it can never be from a position of self-righteousness. The Gospel truth is that we don’t occupy the moral high ground. Just look at Titus 3: 3-7. The reason the Church wants the best for society and is called to care for society is because we ourselves were slaves (verse 3). But God saved us (verse 5), and now we are heirs to eternal life (verse 7).
We were Slaves
You were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, hated by others and hating one another. Without God we lived in foolish disobedience. Instead of serving God we served our own desires. We were slaves to our sin. You didn’t change yourself. It has everything to do with who God is, and nothing to do with who we are. Or what we have done. It’s because of his goodness, his love, his mercy, his grace.
God Saved us
Gratitude should be the hallmark of the Christian existence. In fact It should colour everything we are – including our motives in relating to the world outside.
“Pride is the mark of the monastery or the NGO. Either you are proud of your holiness, or you are proud of your good works – your love for others. Either way you are proud and you are closed to those who are not like you. But if you replace pride with gratitude to God our Saviour your attitude to society opens out.”
We are Heirs
Now we are heirs (Titus 3:7). It is a radical change that God brings about in our lives. Indeed, He is actually changing us from the inside out. He does it by taking our place. “That is who Jesus is – God as man. God starts all over again with humanity in Christ – he is actually making a new creature. You were darkness, you are now light. You were a slave, you are now an heir of the entire universe. It is radical.” In fact there is no end to the blessing that he has in store for us.
“That means that we can share. No matter what you give over to others, God has more to give you. We are sons and daughters of God almighty. We stand to inherit the whole universe.” Its not a tug of war – we have nothing to lose and nothing to gain. So that means we are free to love. We can become lovers of humanity in the deepest possible sense. We can care.
Good Works are Excellent and Profitable for People
“When we do good to people it is an expression of God’s heart for them and it will show them just how beautiful He is.” And for those given eyes to see, that beauty will be irresistible. Titus 3 verse 8 is very clear: “The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.”
“The Church is a fellowship of former slaves who do good out of solidarity with those who are still slaves – out of gratitude to God and out of the deepest possible love for mankind as those who were loved first by God. We engage with society for the good of the people and for the glory of God. And the two are one.”
It is for this reason that Christians are called to care. “Because the Church’s business is the Gospel we will do good. Remembering that the only good we can ever do is in Christ.”