The Church’s Dual Responsibility in the World

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Jesus said,

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matt 5:13-16).

Pastors and church leaders possess a dual responsibility. As interpreters of Scriptures and of culture, we explain how to apply the Bible to the range of life situations. This should occupy a significant amount of the preacher’s time, both in and out of the pulpit, for biblically informed and missionally attentive Christians are publicly engaged Christians.

Meanwhile, those called to this ministry are often pilloried in the media and popular culture, regarded as buffoons and bigots. While, with Paul, we are rightly counted fools for Christ’s sake, the culture’s bias against biblical faith makes it even more important for pastors to maintain impeccable fidelity and a good reputation.

In light of these challenges (and opportunities), it is a daunting task for one to embody public faith. After all, we follow the footsteps of One who was crucified as a revolutionary, hated by the world, before whom his accusers yelled, “crucify him, crucify him.” If this was the world’s response to Jesus’ ministry, why should we expect a different response?

But we dare not retreat into holy huddles. As the calling to embody publicly attentive faith applies to the preacher, so it does for all of us in Christ. We awake each day with the same opportunity before us, confronted by some dimension of culture that requires critique or perhaps opposition, while sanctified elements are to be celebrated. To faithfully engage this calling, that is, to interpret the text and public life and connect the dots between the two, requires our best thinking; otherwise, we risk becoming the proverbial salt that’s lost its flavor, or lamp that’s lost its flame.

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