The Reconciled Church Conference

I think one of the most troubling aspects of being a Christian, or being a member of the Christian church, comes in determining what type of line we are going to tow when it comes to social and justice issues. This year, we have witnessed media coverage of events that reflect the continued wages of sin that plague our nation. This has been evident in the racial discontent following the Trayvon Martin shooting, the incidents in Ferguson and New York, and the most recent case of violence erupting in Baltimore. But our headlines also focus on things like immigration reform and socialized medical care.

These situations are troubling in and of themselves. However, what’s even more troubling in my mind is the Church’s response—or lack thereof—to these issues. I travel quite a bit and am fortunate to encounter church leaders, pastors and lay leaders from around the country. When one of these issues arises in conversation, I am struck by the responses: they either reflect a political view or there is a perception of ambivalence to the entire thing. For those who have a view and speak it, I only need to shut my eyes to feel like I am listening to one of the major news programs. It certainly does not matter if a Christian or congregation tends to be politically liberal or conservative; their opinions are generally verbatim from what one might hear on Fox or CNN. Both sides of the matter seem to be more intent on being correct rather than reflecting any compassion. Shamefully, I have watched as too many churches have sat on the sideline for fear of getting involved. Yet everyone has an opinion and generally this opinion has selfish motives: how does this affect me, what is fair, as long as I am not taken advantage of, I worked hard why can’t they, it’s the police department’s fault, they had what was coming to them, etc.

What I do not hear is Christians standing up and sharing what the Bible says. I have yet to hear from the pulpit a reminder of what Jesus’ instructions were. No one on this earth has commanded me to lay down my worldview of things, to quit being influenced by media and focus my attention solely on what scripture teaches. We should be saying that we are neither left nor right but Children of God. Let the world respond as the world wants to respond. But let our response as the Church be one that is solely focused on everlasting life. Church leaders that desire to play both the political game and try to lead from the pulpit should be chided for their lack of attention to what matters.

I recently had a chance to attend the Reconciled Church Conference, which addressed these issues. Attendees included pastors, judicial leaders, business leaders and other Christians that share in the desire to have a unified response that reflects the body of Christ. The purpose of the event was to gather a unified coalition of Church leadership that is not concerned with having the latest sound bites for mainstream media. The desire of the group is to implement a Christ-focused plan that works toward the transformation of our communities. These efforts begin with and are rooted in prayer. Programs are great if they are led by the Lord, but a bridge to peace will not stand if it is not supported by Churches standing together in prayer.

This conference urged leaders to adopt one or more areas of focus in their community and stand together. The focus areas included educational reform, civic engagements, community outreach and service, marriage and family interventions, criminal justice reform and economic development. Mind you, the approach is not to engage these components as they have been in the past. Instead, it is a call to implement these initiatives in a way that reflects the Body of Christ. Urging leaders, pastors, congregants—ultimately all Christians—to view every instance through the lens of Jesus Christ.

I know my view of things is significantly altered when I ask how Christ would see something like school reform implemented in my community. My view of immigration is completely transformed when I let the Bible steer me. Words like compassion, heart and forgiveness take on an entirely different meaning when I look at the conflict in the world from a Biblical standpoint.

I do not want to provide a Pollyannaish viewpoint in saying that the Christian church could resolve much of the world’s conflict by moving in this direction. I do not think this is true. Sin is sin and we know from scripture that the situation is only going to get worse until Christ comes again. But this is no reason that the Church should not be taking a stand to do the right thing. Is it going to be hard? Definitely. Will it pull us out of our comfort zone? Sure. Will it be fair to us? Maybe, maybe not. However, all of this is irrelevant.

We are commanded—let me repeat for all you independent types like myself—WE ARE COMMANDED to live and act according to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Not only is He our example, He is our sovereign forever and ever. The Church needs to be a reflection of who He is. It is about time we showed the world (starting in the communities around us) what a life in Christ looks like.  

Romney Ruder is World Impact's Senior Vice President and COO.