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Bloggin’ the 28 – The Church: Witnessing to the Reign of God

Continuing our summer Bloggin’ the 28 project, pastor Ryan Bell applies the Seventh-day Adventist doctrine of The Church to contemporary life.
. . .The central task of the church is “witness” – or in the Greek, marturia.
Part of being witnesses is to demonstrate, in our communal life, what
the kingdom is like. The body of Christ is called to be a demonstration
– an embodied witness – of the loving reign of God. This leads many
theologians, like Stanley Hauerwas, to assert that the number one thing
the church can do to give witness to the gospel of the kingdom is to be
the church. When the church is focused on being the church – and not
trying to be a corporation or an amusement park or something else – the
world is able to see what God has in mind of the whole world. In this
way, the church is a foretaste of the coming kingdom.
What kind of embodied witness does scripture call for? The New
Testament is loaded with these narratives and mandates. The church
witnesses to the forgiveness of God by being a reconciling community; a
community that knows how to receive and extend God’s forgiveness. The
church witnesses to the grace and hospitality of God by receiving
strangers and extending God’s hospitality to ‘the other.’ The church
embodies God’s future reign of peace and justice by being agents
of peace and justice in the world today. The church gives demonstrable
witness to God’s intention to heal all creation by being agents of
healing and wholeness in our communities, caring for the environment
and bringing God’s healing to the point of the world’s greatest pain.
We are also called to give witness in ways that are even more
“alternative” and counter to the prevailing culture. It is not enough
for the church to witness to God’s kingdom by the things it embraces. We are also called to the more difficult task of bearing witness through resistance.
There are some things that are just inconsistent with the gospel of
the kingdom. For example – and here again, Adventists are uniquely
positioned to be this embodied witness – followers of the Way of Jesus
cannot embrace our world’s way of violence. Jesus was a person of
uncompromising peace. He was a pacifist. Our Adventist forebears
understood this. And so we are called to give witness to God’s reign of
peace by resisting war and other forms of violence and exploitation.
Go, read the whole rip-roaring essay and comment here.

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