Any Christianity worthy of the name is gracious. Here’s an opening definition from Jacobsen/Sawatsky: “Being church is being Christian together” (89). What do you think of this definition?
1. Church as community: “Freelance Christianity is seen as an anomaly” (90). Church is important, but it does not mean conformity. And here’s a great quotation: “The naturally grumpy have a place in the community of the church along with the constitutionally cheery” (90).
2. Church for others: at the center of it all is hospitality, which extends to others and then on further to yet more. The church is a “school of mutual hospitality” (92).
Now they come to a major issue for many of us:
3. Church and the Kingdom of God: I’d be interested in your response to this statement: “Unlike the church, the kingdom of God is not something to which a person belongs; instead, it is something in which one participates to a greater or lesser extent” (93). Before I respond, let me mention that they continue to show that the church has failed in many kingdom responsibilities: anti-Semitism, slavery.
My comment is along this line: I find it common for folk to say the kingdom is bigger than the church; while there is something to this, there is a problem here. For me, the issue is that “kingdom” mutated at the hands of Paul into “church” but that mutation is not so much a definition of a part of the kingdom but a renewed way of saying “kingdom.” In other words, maybe we are here mis-defining “church” and ought to be thinking that “church” is an alternative society, driven into sectarian status when Paul invaded the Roman empire, where God’s will is supposed to be alive and well. If so, maybe “kingdom” and “church” are closer than we often think. I know, there is an entire history of theological debate here, but the fundamental issue of how “church” (with Paul) relates to “kingdom” for Jesus is too often slipped into the water with a gentle push by saying “kingdom is the bigger idea.” Is it?
And now another topic of significance:
4. Church and State: the authors warn of the problem of Constantinianism. The issue for me is why the Church was so compelled in this direction — was it because it saw itself as “kingdom”? We might think today in terms of separation (after all, we live in a pluralistic society), but is that what Jesus had in mind? At any rate, today we are faced with the need for the Church to maintain its prophetic voice.
5. Worship: it orients the life of the Church to God.