A gracEmail subscriber writes: “I see so many churches studying for the ‘meat’ of the Word of God, showing up Sundays to ‘do church,’ while not considering that feeding the orphans and widows, clothing the needy and sharing a cold glass of water is what it is all about. How do we make disciples without turning into over-studied yet under-acting professing Christians? How do we build new hearts without turning people into legalistic, arrogant, Bible-thumpers who can only respond with their brains?”
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The key, I think, is in realizing that God is out to transform people into the likeness of Christ, with the ultimate goal one day of manifesting his total sovereignty in sin-free new heavens and earth. This is all to the praise of the glory of God’s grace as demonstrated through Jesus Christ his beloved Son (Acts 3:19-21; Rom. 8:28-31; Eph. 1:3-14).
We cannot do better when approaching Scripture than to put prayer at the beginning, Christ at the center and practice at the end. God’s word comes to us in a relational framework, with relational interaction and with relational goals. We are not primarily concerned with institution, law or even morality as such, although those elements all have a place in the larger picture. We are concerned to work with God in bringing reconciliation to a broken cosmos, a broken humankind and broken individual men, women and children.
God has started that process already by reconciling the world to himself in the person of Jesus Christ. He has begun the new creation by raising Jesus back from the dead. As God’s Spirit-filled community, the church is now called to embody that reconciliation and new creation, winsomely inviting every person to accept the good news of God’s friendship and to respond to it by faith and obedience (2 Cor. 5:14-21). That is the “meat” of the word, as I perceive it. As we are captivated by this vision ourselves we will take on attitudes and lifestyles consistent with it and the problems you mention in your question will gradually diminish and disappear.