“We believe that God’s lifegiving Word and Spirit has conquered the powers of sin and death, and therefore also of irreconciliation and hatred, bitterness and enmity, that God’s lifegiving Word and Spirit will enable the church to live in a new obedience which can open new possibilities of life for society and the world.”
That’s a quote from Article 3 of the Belhar Confession. We used it in our worship service today at a meeting of the Presbytery of Geneva. We’ve been using it in a year-long process to explore the possibility of including it in the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Book of Confessions. As can be surmised from the following statement of faith, the immediate situation in this South African confession was apartheid:
We believe “that any teaching which attempts to legitimate such forced separation by appeal to the gospel, and is not prepared to venture on the road of obedience and reconciliation, but rather, out of prejudice, fear, selfishness and unbelief, denies in advance the reconciling power of the gospel, must be considered ideology and false doctrine.”
The life giving Word of God enables us “to live in a new obedience which can open new possibilities of life for society.” How badly we need that in our country, where it seems that we’ve painted ourselves into ideological corners. We’re so suspicious of each other.
But that isn’t the way of Jesus Christ. The way of Christ leads us “to venture on the road of obedience and reconciliation.” There are plenty of voices in our society—fearful, paranoid voices who seek to fill us with fear and paranoia—but that is not the way of Christ. These voices are on both the left and the right. These voices deny “in advance the reconciling power of the gospel.” They should be seen for what they are: “ideology and false doctrine.”