Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

What do we have to become Christians for?

I am presently reading a book of David Bosch which was published after his untimely death in April 1992. David Bosch was one of the external examiners for my PhD and as far as I know I was the last student he examined before he died. I was therefore very surprised when my eldest son (going for his final year in theological studies) brought my attention to a book entitled Believing in the Future. In this book of 61 pages he speaks about missions within a Western culture.
One of the questions he asks is: What do we have to become Christians for? In Western culture, according to Bosch, Christianity had been marked by two distinct responses. The one was the attempt to Christianise culture and ultimately the state. Christians wanted therefore to have everything which happened to be measured against the norms set down by the Bible and what they believe in. In essence, this is what Islam does, where there is little distinction between religion and the state and where the laws in the Kor’an determine the laws of the state. Although there are many Christians who propagate such a Christian state, Bosch describes this as little other than a fantasy of the “religious right”.
The other response, according to him, is much more real and may, in my opinion, perhaps be even more devastating than the first response, and that is to withdraw from public life altogether. In these cases Christians focus solely on “religious” aspects, leaving the rest to the secular powers. According to these people, religion is a private affair and has nothing to do with the public sphere.
What do we have to become Christians for? The question is relevant. If the answer is merely because we want to be saved from eternal punishment, then we do not understand at all how God cares for the world. Bosch then writes: At least part of the answer to this question will have to be: “In order to be enlisted into God’s ministry of reconciliation, peace and justice on earth.”
In an earlier post I wrote that Christianity is not a religion. Bosch says virtually the same when he writes that there is already very much religion in Western society. What we do not need then, is to introduce more religion. The issue is not to talk more about God in a culture that has become irreligious, but how to express, ethically, the coming of God’s reign, how to help people respond to the real questions of their context, how to break with the paradigm according to which religion has to do only with the private sphere.
In a sermon, one Sunday morning, I mentioned the then popular “bumper stickers”, one of which read: Jesus is the answer. To which I responded by saying in my sermon: If Jesus is the answer, what is the question?
I think the world may be tired of hearing that Jesus is the answer. It’s time that they see that He is the answer. And this is our responsibility as Christians.

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Monday, December 10, 2007 - Posted by | Alternative Society, David Bosch, Evangelism, Mission, Social issues, Theology

1 Comment »

  1. How funny that I have been thinking on these same lines recently, asking myself similar questions. I was planning to write a post very soon on related issues. I agree that talking about Jesus has been quite tiresome for our society and what people need is to see ordinary people actually LIVING their relationship with Jesus consistently and lovingly day in and day out. The Christian witness has been so marred in the media and in our culture that it has little to no effect any more. We have a lot of repair to do and it will have to come in the form of action.

    Comment by Maya | Tuesday, December 11, 2007 | Reply


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