The North American Baptist Conference is a group of churches that chooses to serve together. We are a community of faith that believes in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and seeks to live it out. With this in mind, I have been asked why we as the NAB are focused on justice and righteousness and not just simply preaching and teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified and risen as Savior and Lord. I fully agree that this is the message of the Gospel, but the message of the Gospel is also that we as Christians are to live in Jesus. Paul tells us in Galatians 2:20 that he has been crucified with Christ and Christ now lives in him. As we live in Jesus, Ephesians 5:8–10 tells us to live as children of light. This passage goes on to say that the fruit of this light shining out of us is goodness, righteousness, and truth. Jesus tells us this consists of loving God with all of our heart, soul, and mind and also loving our neighbor as ourselves. God wants us to show his love to others. This is intimately tied to seeking God’s justice and righteousness for those who live in our communities and in our world. This is the Good News of Jesus in action. Seeking God’s justice and righteousness is not tangential to the Gospel but a key part of the Gospel message.
We are all very aware there is much trouble in our world. It is reported that Albert Einstein said, “Two things are infinite – the universe and human trouble, and I’m not sure about the universe.” The trouble and brokenness of this world comes from choosing sin, choosing what does not please or honor God. This brokenness means there is injustice and lack of righteousness in situations, in systems, and in how we treat each other. As the NAB, we recognize the consequences of sin – we acknowledge our inability to deal with those consequences in our own strength. As a conference of churches, we affirm the power of God to change hearts and change lives. In our faith in Jesus Christ, we are to live as brothers and sisters in the family of God. This involves acknowledging what is wrong and seeking God’s right in the lives of others. As followers of Jesus, we pray for God’s Kingdom to come and for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. We do not look to theories or philosophies to inform our choices, but we submit and surrender to the Word of God and to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit. Micah 6:8 tells us God requires us to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with him.
This partnership we’ve chosen as NAB churches working together must involve loving each other and respecting each other as family – brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. The Bible refers to Christians as the body of Jesus Christ; as parts of this body, we are diverse but we are unified in Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit. This diversity is about our gifts, abilities, and service, but it also involves our background, experiences, and perspective. We have been brought together to serve with each other and learn from each other. This can only happen as God directs us to treat each other with justice and righteousness. Involved in this is being aware of the injustice and lack of righteousness found not just in the world but also in us. It is also in listening and learning from each other to understand, together, what it means to seek God’s justice and righteousness in the world.
Philippians 1:27 tells us to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ. Paul tells us this means we are standing firm in one spirit and striving together as one for the faith of the Gospel.