This past Sunday we had a guest minister fill our pulpit at Trinity URC as part of a post-classis pulpit exchange. The Rev. James Admiraal from Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI preached a sermon called, From Useless to Useful from the book of Philemon. I have his permission to quote from his sermon. He asked:
Why didn’t Paul tell Philemon in no uncertain terms, “you shouldn’t even own slaves”?
He then talked about slave ownership in the Old and New Testaments and continued with this:
It is not the function of the Church to force that kind of change. The Church can and it must speak to the conscience of a nation and its citizens, but the church cannot and should not force such social, economic, even moral change on nations. Jesus never did that either. Jesus never said, “All slaves may now go free.” Christ was not a political revolutionary. Neither was Paul. Paul even wrote in Ephesians and Colossians that slaves should obey their masters, but then Paul also reminded masters to treat their slaves with kindness, remembering that they as owners were also under a master; the Lord Jesus Christ. And then Paul reminded Christians of something else; He said in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Before Christ, the slave and the free man are equal.
This reminded me of a post Zrim wrote back when the Outhouse was just a hole in the ground (weeks ago) about civil war era Kentucky Presbyterian minister Stuart Robinson; Now That’s a Confessional Communion Rail. We’ve added a lot more readers since he posted it, so you may want to check it out.
Now if by, “speak to the conscience of a nation,” Admiraal meant by preaching nothing but the Word of God, and I think he did, I fully agree. The Church speaks to the conscience of the citizens of a nation that are gathered in corporate worship by preaching to them Christ and Him crucified. The Church is not an institution of political, social, economic, or moral revolution. The function of the Church is to preach the Word and administer the sacraments.
So, Do you think there has ever been a circumstance when a church or denomination should have spoken out or taken an ‘official stance’ against a political, social, economic or moral injustice in society? Is there such an issue today?
-It’s good to be confessional