In recent years, when asked what I do, I often say I am a community activist. If pressed, and I think I can get away with it, I add that I am a gospel preaching, community activist. Having become a Christian in a setup that saw preaching of the gospel, and by that the emphasis was on telling sinners (all of us) how they can be saved, as being paramount and community activism, beyond showing kindness to those who we are in contact, as an unhelpful distraction, I can look back and see I have gone a long way down a path I little imagined in those early days. Besides seeing community activism, not only in broader terms, but also part of our calling as Christians, I am less inclined to dismiss, and indeed will work alongside Liberals and Catholics, who may not quite share my understanding when it comes to proclaiming the gospel. One reason why it is possible and desirable is our often shared interest in community activism.
Quite often my gospel pre-occupation and my community activism overlap, which should not come as a surprise as the former informs and inspires the latter. Recently I blogged on the Wheaton college story which involved suspending a professor who said Christians and Muslims worship the same God (see here) and the Anglican Primate conference, which if the media is to be believed was primarily about the Anglican communion’s approach to the issues around homosexuality (see here and here). Then three days back I attended an event where the key speaker was one who among other things promoted ideas around an inclusive church, where inclusion is seen as more important than what detractors would see as gospel fidelity (see here). All these things impact on the subject in hand.
When I set up my website some two years back, I was of a view that something I needed to include was a gospel message and that it needed to relate to the main thrust of my website, which was about my interests as a community activist. I have tinkered with this a number of times, but here is that message. I was/am mindful that many of those Christians with an interest in gospel and community would want to emphasise such themes as the inclusiveness of the gospel and the love of God. While I would not argue on the importance of such matters, I believe an even greater emphasis needs to be on the righteousness of God, which is the central thrust of the message that I posted. Considerations include the fact God is righteousness and in a sense it over arches and incorporates some of His other attributes, including love but also justice.
As unpalatable as this may be to modern sensibilities, we will have to stand before our Maker, who is also our judge, and will receive His judgment because of our unrighteousness. Although none of us can by ourselves meet God’s righteous expectations, we can be deemed righteous through faith in Jesus, the only one who ever was completely righteous, who died on a cross in order to atone for our sins and rose from the dead. While we can thereby be considered righteous, we are also called to be righteous and this includes aspects as sexual purity and caring for the poor and the oppressed and seeing justice done, and a whole host of other things besides, which sadly some earnest types can conveniently ignore. Practically, this ought to determine how we view same sex relationships as well as any behavior God has not sanctioned. It challenges us to truly love our neighbour as God commands us. It requires a practical response to all sorts if live issues, like how we treat foreigners living in our midst and meeting the needs of sanctuary seekers.
And just for the sake of balance, and especially for those who would want to consign me to the ranks of yet another fundamentalist bigot that can be safely ignored, if you care to read my gospel preaching, community activist blogs (most of the nearly 500 posted to date fall in that category), I am in no-one’s pocket (excluding God of course) and I operate an equal opportunity policy when bringing all sections of the community, religious or not, to account. I subscribe to a good deal of the wisdom of Peter Tatchell: “Be sceptical, question authority, be a rebel. Do not conform and don’t be ordinary. Remember, all human progress is the result of far-sighted people challenging orthodoxy, tradition and rich, powerful, vested interests” and to the well articulated thoughts of another blogger: “Why I want you to question everything – even me.”
Back to the gospel preaching aspect of my community activism (which I try not to impose out of respect for those I engage with), I say what I do knowing that mine is not a popular message, even among many Christians who share many of my views, and it has been and will be opposed by many. The temptation is to go with the flow and attempt to include all, justifying a willingness to accommodate those who say or practice that which God does not endorse (if a plain rendition of the scriptures is anything to go by) in order to be accepted. This is a grave mistake and a matter of disloyalty to the one we are called to follow. There are often no simple answers to the perplexities that face us today, but we are called to be faithful and that means both living and proclaiming the gospel and being active in our communities, loving our neighbours.