Moving Theology from Rhetoric to Practice
In our churches today we find among the many differences, Christians whose primary interest is either in beliefs, practice or values. For Christians whose primary interest is right beliefs, the danger is that it would lead them to worshiping doctrine and theological understanding over an authentic encounter with Christ that changes their practices and values. So there are Christians who talks more about their beliefs yet willing to acknowledge that these beliefs have not changed their lives. Then there are Christians who are totally committed to social action and often this often causes them to become tireless, and often worn out, activists, relying solely on their own efforts to please God. For them it’s about making a difference in the world even if it means compromising their beliefs and values. Then there are Christians who focus on emotions and feelings, and this causes them to search for the next spiritual experience or turn them into spiritual mystics. These are the ones that will move around seeking spiritual highs.
My understanding of an authentic follower of Jesus is one who is growing in their beliefs of God, thus changing their heart values and their faith so that they are salt and light in the world. Our theology must cause us to grow in our love for God and others which leads to the transformation of our heart and actions. That is why I strongly believe that our theology determines the way we live our lives and carry out our mission in the world. That to me is the heart of discipleship which I find is lacking in the western church. Could this be the reason for the decline of the church in the west?
One of the things I love about Jesus’ ministry on earth was that he made it very clear what his theology, values and practices were. He held public meetings where He revealed his theology. If Jesus was here on earth, he would probably be giving sermons on the net rather than mount. Jesus demonstrated through his life and actions, what his values and practices were. Religious leaders kept seeking faults in his life. Sinners kept finding grace in encountering with him. And many people found his words, values and practices hard to follow and left him. But in Jesus, his theology was not rhetoric but lived out through his values and actions.
When Jesus invited his disciples to follow Him, there was a promise. He was going to make them a disciple-maker. This was made clear in John when Jesus said “As the Father has sent me, I now send you.” They had spent three years with Jesus learning all three aspects of discipleship – beliefs, values and practice. During that journey, they recognized Christ as the Messiah and the Son of the living God and understood what it meant to be living Kingdom lives in the world. They saw the importance of belief, values and actions coming together. Now that they understood that, Jesus was sending them out to become disciple-makers. They stuck with Jesus and were to continue the work of Jesus. The work of Jesus was to reconcile all people to God. The disciples now were sent out to invite people to encounter this Christ and to follow Him.
This ministry of reconciliation is passed down to the church. All of us are called to be involved in the ministry of reconciliation. My understanding of that then is to have our theological understanding of the redemptive message of the Bible right because in that we understand the Good News of the Kingdom of God, the new creation of God that will eventually replace the old creation. Then we need to live out that understanding in our own lives through the change of heart and change of actions. Finally we are then able to bear witness to this new and awesome way of living through our word, signs of the Kingdom and deeds. By doing that we move our theology from being just rhetoric to one of practice. However if our theology, values and practice does not lead anyone to be reconciled to God and to others, then our theology is just one of rhetoric.
My prayer has always been that my theology, values and practice will line up with God’s Word and that the Holy Spirit will enable me to love God and others so that the world can taste and see the goodness of God.