Seminarian Voices: Being the Church

By Patrick Jackson MDiv II

Matthew 25:34-40 says

34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”

This passage falls in the midst of a discourse relating a version of end-time prophecy that Christ was sharing with the disciples.  Along with the eschatological implications of Jesus’ words, there is also a glimpse into the type of heart and attitude we should strive to have as the church—both gathered and scattered.  What it says is that if we are to be a people that claim the cause of Christ, a people committed to taking up our own respective crosses, then we cannot stand idly by in the face of great human suffering.  If we need an example, consider how churches throughout the nation served as safe havens, meeting places, and launching pads during the Civil Rights era nearly a half century ago, often at great risk. 

In 2009, the American Religious Identity Survey was published by Trinity College in Hartford, CT.  It showed that the percentage of folks who called themselves Christian had dropped from 86% to 76% since a similar survey in 1990 and that those who checked “None” for no affiliation increased from 8% to 15% in the same time frame.  Then came the avalanche of news stories declaring such things as “The End of Christian America,” and generally that the church is either dead, dying or on life support.  Much of that ranting and raving and rhetoric in the media was used as yet another opportunity to bash the church as if it is crippled and criticize prayer as if prayer is powerless.

I stand with those who refuse to accept the idea that the church is dead or impotent.  Certainly it is foolish to believe that the church is perfect or that as human beings we will be able to solve every problem or save every person, but we can do something to make a difference.  Even amid the great challenges the church faces in many areas, from cultural, ethnic, geographic, and generational shifts to scandals that are often front page news, there is still a role for the church to play in helping those who need it most.

One way the church can make a difference is to join in the effort to raise awareness and resources to assist the millions of Syrian refugees still in dire need of assistance.  Like many around the globe, we have watched in horror the reports of the refugees who have fled the bloody Syrian conflict that continues to plague their former homeland.  We have also observed with a heavy heart the news of thousands of deaths of refugees attempting to flee the Syrian conflict through the Mediterranean.  And even with the initial commitment by Germany and others to take in hundreds of thousands, they are finding the flow of refugees to be overwhelming and have limited access into their countries.  Too many refugees are still suffering from lack of food, clothing, and shelter, crowded in unsafe camps like animals or sleeping in the streets.

The way we see it, we have two choices.  We can give lip service, complaining about how awful the situation is, or we can be the church that God has called us to be and do our part.  My hope and belief is that we as the church will choose the latter.  

Patrick Jackson is a second-year MDiv candidate at Andover Newton Theological School.

About Seminarian Voices
Seminarian Voices is a platform for our seminarians and interns to express their experiences, views, and perspectives on their journey through Divinity school and beyond. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by the Memorial Church.


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