All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us… – 2 Corinthians 5
Typically, with a lot of small groups, Bible classes, and other routine activities taking a hiatus during July and August, Rebekah will lead a summer study for those wanting to stay engaged or simply plug into something new.
This year she is peeling back the layers, offering an in-depth look at what it means to be a Presbyterian and thinking about faith in the Reformed tradition. She is using a great little book called Being Presbyterian in the Bible Belt.
The best thing about the study is how it gets to the heart of what makes Reformed Theology distinct without having to take such an intellectual and philosophical deep-dive as the Christian Doctrine (Shirley Guthrie) book I have been using with my Sunday morning class.
Conflating the Cross and the Flag
For me this is an exceptionally timely study in light of the very public conflation of “Evangelical” Christianity with right-wing politics and nationalism. And I am thinking about this today because it is July 4th tomorrow and the America that was so beautifully imagined almost 250 years ago did not include a state religion for very good reason.
Because the combining of any national flag with the cross of Jesus will inevitably corrupt both.
- I love America; this is my chosen home and – like pioneers and immigrants throughout the ages – I feel privileged to live here in this bountiful sanctuary of freedom and security.
- And I love Jesus; I have chosen to accept his invitation home and I feel so privileged to live in the bountiful grace of God’s freedom, mercy, and security.
But let’s not conflate the two!
And let’s especially not suggest that a pointed nationalism, or policies designed to keep immigrants as a permanent underclass, or propping up corporate profits at the expense of the poor, or pricing health care out of the reach of people who already struggle to make ends meet, comes with the endorsement of Jesus or that it is in any way appropriate to wrap any religion in the American flag.
So, I know, that’s all a far cry from Rebekah teaching a series of classes on how understanding Reformed Theology interfaces with our day-to-day lives as people of faith living in this (or any) culture, or political structure, or social reality. But everything I learn causes me to think, and evaluate, and reconsider how this decision to follow Jesus is the most relevant and important focus of my life.
Reconciling the world to God
Peel back the layers and you will find that Presbyterian teaching is all about our daily decision to follow Jesus, about loving mercy, doing justice and walking humbly, and about God’s clear imperative that we involve ourselves in “reconciling the world to God.”
I don’t care if you are a Democrat, a Republican, a Socialist, an Independent, or an immigrant – our responsibility as Christians is to follow Jesus, to love God, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Not just our responsibility, our opportunity!