In this sixth and concluding article of the series centered on examining Church and state relations particular attention is drawn to the Church as a divine institution that is in the world but not of it. What does Jesus mean when he says of his disciples that they are in the world but not of it? What does this mean for the Church’s relationship to the things of this world and heavenly concerns? Let us examine below. The fifth article of this series on Church and its responsibility to empower its members noted the following points:
The Church both as an institution and through its individual members should strive to learn about the right understanding and way to make money. And then equally learn how to dispose of it in the manner that pleases and honors the Chief Giver, God.
Beyond the material, every Christian is to be a transformed agent for positive change. The Christian person bears the Gospel message of liberation and enlightenment. Paul and other New Testament writers again would remind the believers, “Brothers I do not want to be ignorant…”, “Don’t you know…”, and “Christ has set you free do not let anyone make you a slave again…”
It is sad to note that over the centuries of Christianity there have been instances in various places of the globe where Christianity has been used an instrument of oppression. The classic examples are the transatlantic slave trade and apartheid, evil acts, which some Christians used the Bible to justify. But true Christianity liberates and enlightens from all sorts of enslavement and blindness including witchcraft and ignorance of the worst kinds.
Jesus at the onset of his earthly ministry announced that he came to: (1) bring good news to the poor, (2) proclaim freedom to the captives, (3) give recovery of sight to the blind, and (4) to set the oppressed free (Luke 4:18-21). Therefore the Church ought to continue with the message of freedom and enlightenment through conscientization. As one expert in Christian missions has rightly put it: “Evangelization has the obligation to educate the Christian conscience, to inspire, stimulate and help to orient all the faculties that contribute to the formation of man/woman into the kind of person that God meant them to be.”
In short, Christianity is to help all its members become the best in all honorable professions and callings such as home care, teaching, the different trades, business, politics, law, and security. Christians should not be lazy and sloppy in their thinking and actions. The Church should be in the vanguard of entrepreneurship of every right kind. She ought to teach her members investment, management, discipline and integrity principles and skills and thereby make them useful to God, his Church, the family, community and the wider society.
The Church should teach its members and let herself live as in the world but not of it. To discuss this topic of the Church in the world but not of it we will use John 17:16 and 1 Peter 2:11-12 to form the basis of discussion. Let us quote them in full: “I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world as I do not belong to the world… I appeal to you my friends, as strangers and refugees in this world! Do not give in to worldly passions, which are always at war against the soul. Your conduct among the heathen should be so good that when they accuse you of being evildoers, they will have to recognize your good deeds and so praise God on the day of his coming.”
Both of these texts make a similar point that the Church and Christians are in the world but belong to a different kingdom. Paul refers to them as citizens of heaven (Galatians 3:20) and Peter as aliens and exiles on earth. Let us be careful not to misunderstand the meaning of these texts. They are not in any way encouraging Christians to neglect their civil duties. A refugee always has his/her eyes set on home and looking forward to returning home one day. But while he/she is in another country she/he must seek the peace and welfare of that country because whenever there is trouble the refugee is likely to suffer a lot more than the citizens.
Because Christians are in the world they must be good citizens who perform their civil duties well (pay all legitimate taxes and contribute quota for the good of all of society) as well as to serve as a witness of Jesus Christ to the world. Their standards and values are of heaven and often higher than those of the world. Their primary duty is to imbue the world with godly values and principles of altruism, servant-leader style, fairness to all, and humble service to all as means of true greatness.
Christians and the Christian Church ought to be effective agents of change for the better, making the most of the opportunities of the world in politics, commerce, and all honest endeavors; and to witness to the world of the power, love, grace of God and his desire and plan for the best of each person and the wider world.