God’s family stands up for others

 

Being Christian means living the vision of peace

By Vernon S. Broyles III | Presbyterians Today

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth … . And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” — Revelation 21:1–4

Icon of Second Coming. Christ is enthroned in the center surrounded by the angels and saints. Paradise is at the bottom, with the Bosom of Abraham (left) and the Good Thief (right) holding his cross. Greece, ca. 1700. Private collection.

As Christians, this is the promise toward which we live, but it’s not just an eschatological hope. It’s God’s vision into which we are called to live daily, supported by our faith in the One who has given himself on our behalf. Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth and the life” — nothing less —  and the guide for our daily living.

Our Presbyterian predecessors knew this and strove to give concrete meaning to Jesus’ promise in the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which consists of two parts — the “Book of Confessions” and the “Book of Order.”  In the “Confessions,” the Larger Catechism instructs us beyond the command “Thou shalt not kill,” adding that we are “to preserve the life of ourselves and others,” in “forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, … requiting good for evil, … protecting and defending the innocent.” It forbids “the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful or necessary means of preservation of life.” As for the command “Thou shalt not steal,” we are called to “endeavor by all just and lawful means to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own.”

In brief, we are called by God to live out our relationships with others remembering that we are part of a larger human family. We are part of God’s family. It’s not by any means a family delineated by our ethnicity, our nationality or even our faith. We must stand up and be counted as followers of Jesus Christ, saying “No!” to those who embrace self-promotion, who use their power against the disenfranchised and who enrich themselves in obedience to the gods of material wealth and power.

God’s will for humanity is one where peace, love and equality are the order for all children. We who share that vision must live in ways that help bring that vision to reality. It will not happen without great cost — politically, economically and personally. Our world is not in its current state by accident. And this is the world that will always exist as long as people allow it. Our voices must be heard in the halls of political power, in the boardrooms of corporations, in the families and communities where, like most of us Presbyterians, we live in relative comfort.

A rabbi friend recently reminded me of the quote attributed to Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, as he reflected on the rise of Nazism and the devastating human cost of the Holocaust. He said: “Some are guilty. All are responsible.”

All of us should be challenged by that judgment, as we hear of the death of immigrant children in detention, as we silently face the racism in our criminal justice system, as we read the reports of God’s children who cannot afford food or medical care for their children. Dare we stand before our Lord as the disciples did, asking, “Is it I, Lord? Is it I?”

Vernon S. Broyles III is a volunteer for public witness in the PC(USA)’s Office of the General Assembly.

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