You gotta have faith

Quite what George Michael had faith in is not clear from the lyric of the song. My point is that being part of God’s mission and his salvation requires faith, not as a an adherence to a set of propositional truths but as a commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord.

When I was a youth pastor in Mississippi in the late 1980s, there was a controversy in the Evangelical world between John Macarthur and Zane Hodges over what became known as the “Lordship Salvation/Easy believism debate.” In this, although not much in other things, I side with Macarthur. Hodges was trying to avoid any hint of “works salvation” in his faith. He argued that if faith is anything else than belief in a set of propositions then it became works. Macarthur said that believing in and making Jesus Lord of your life was salvation but not works. This is a particlar debate for a particular set of theological beliefs that were present in the US and remain to this day.

The debate would have been foreign to Jesus and the Apostle Paul. Faith can never simply be a box ticking exercise to a set of propositional statements. This is what the Old Testament prophets railed against; believe in the LORD and live as you like. Commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord, not only as your lord, but the Lord of all is foundational to Christian mission. Christ is my Lord, so I live like it is so.

Mission that is truly integral can only be carried out by those who live their lives as subject to the Lordship of Christ. Luther is said to have said “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” The faith that saves is always accompanied by a transformed life. This does not mean that the person becomes more religious but will have the heart and concerns of God.

God’s concerns are very clear in the Bible. God is concerned for those who have no one to be concerned for them: the widow, the orphan and the foreigner. This is what Paul means when he talked about being transformed by having our minds renewed (Romans 12:2). A student of mine had a T-Shirt that had the words “Changed People, Change the World.” We could paraphrase it with “Transformed People Transform the World”.

I would like to add something to this by saying that “Transformed Communities of People Transform the World”. Yes, each transformed individual contributes to the transformation of the world but actually it is the formation and maintenance of communities of people who live for the widow, the orphans and the foreigner who really transform the world. This is one, but not the only reason why integral mission can only be truly carried out by local fellowships of believers and not be organisations operating as NGOs.

That little discussion is for another day!