“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial.
“God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. Those who dream of this idolized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands set up by their own law, and judge one another and God accordingly.
“It is not we who build. Christ builds the church. Whoever is mindful to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it, for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess he builds. We must proclaim, he builds. We must pray to him, and he will build. We do not know his plan. We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are the times of collapse are for him the great times of construction. It may be that the times which from a human point are great times for the church are times when it's pulled down.
“It is a great comfort which Jesus gives to his church. You confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is not your providence. Do what is given to you, and do it well, and you will have done enough . . . Live together in the forgiveness of your sins. Forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (pp. 10–11)
Biblical social action that reflects advocacy on behalf of the poor--gets your hands dirty and messy
For the church to have a public voice that affects the public square with kingdom values, it needs to have public actions that demonstrate the interests of the community and, in particular, actions that reflect advocacy and social action on behalf of the poor.
There will be expected tensions in advocating for the poor in the public square, including opposition from within and from outside the church community. The political process is rarely comfortable for those with deep, conservative biblical convictions and is often beset with estranged alliances and awkward compromises. Additionally, the very poor we seek to serve will not always appreciate or rise up to the advocacy afforded to them. Nonetheless, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, we need to “smudge” ourselves with “the hard complexities of the world” [Elshtain’s “Afterward” in Evangelicals in the Public Square by Budziszewski, 197].
*Adapted from chapter 1 of Wasted Evangelism, "Widows in Our Courts."
Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.