In the wake of the deadly, tragic shooting in a Charleston, South Carolina black church and the release of the encyclical by Pope Francis on climate change, creation care and care for the poor, I have to ask myself exactly what should we the church do? Of course we will weep with those who weep, especially with our sisters and brothers of the faith who lost loved ones, even as we commit those who were killed to God. And we will pray for the murderer, for his repentance and salvation.
What is a fundamental, core need, simply put, is a new humanity, which is in significant part what the church is to be about in and through Christ. A humanity which does not live by the values of the world, but by Christ’s values, by the kingdom of God come in him. So that we are peacemakerrs across the board as a way of life, not just in reaction to a senseless, evil act. And we respect creation and learn to become aware of and averse to a lifestyle which is at best neutral and at worst antithetical to that, steeped in a consumerist lifestyle which is removed from considering the moral ramfications of such choices, including their impact on the poor of the planet.
What God is up to in his kingdom come in Jesus is in significant part the bringing in of a new humanity which along with the rest of creation will be made brand new when Jesus returns. But in the meantime is being made new in this life and present existence in a collision course with much of the core values at play in the world and the world system.
God’s will for humanity is spelled out in scripture. The goal is not to become a better American, or a better anything else like that, though those things actually to some degree may or may not occur through this. The goal is to be a good citizen of God’s kingdom come in King Jesus. In and through his grace and working by the Spirit and in and through the church, Christ’s Body, through its sacramental and common life.
God is still working on me to that end, thankfully. Too many lessons have been quite hard for me, but the Lord is gracious in being patient and persistent. He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus’ return arrives.
Other things have their place in addressing such grave concerns, but for us who are in Jesus they pale in comparison with where at least we must start. We must be beginning, however halting and imperfect, to be living out God’s will in Jesus within and spilling out from the church. By God’s power through the gospel, that can at least be a witness and a light to what is indeed a dark world.