Covenant youth, who are sensitive to the American scene, realize a need for expressing dissent. Not many are content to sit in smug complacency and say that America has no public sin. Our northern cities reek with the stench of discrimination against the poor and colored; they don’t have to cast a holier-than-thou glance southward. To insulate fiscal security, suburban America erects a wall of paternalistic benevolence in an attempt to contain a seething, rotten ghetto. If any poor or colored try to climb this wall, they are forthwith denominated as aggressors, troublemakers.
The consciences of covenant youth are pricked.
Many attempts are put forth to undo this situation.
We are presently analyzing the basis upon which these attempts are being put forth. This inquiry will help us in determining whether covenant youth may rightly co-operate with these efforts.
Some are moved to help the poor and colored neighbor out of consideration for his humanity. These people are humans and as members of the human race have human rights. Among these human rights we find such things as equal protection of the law, property ownership, employment, adequate food, decent housing, education, etc. This sounds notable, yet the Christian recognizes that this cannot be a basis for concern for the neighbor. Humanism is anti-God, it leaves Christ out of the picture.
In our last article, we also intimated that universal Brotherhood cannot serve as a proper basis for concern for our neighbor. The only difference between Brotherhood and Humanism is that Brotherhood adds a religious flavor. It pretends to be Christian, but in reality denies Christ.
The late Dr. Martin Luther King was the most eloquent voice of the civil rights movement. His famous, “Stone of Hope,” garnished in local color, pulls at the heart strings and cries for Brotherhood.
Now, I say to you today, my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It’s a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners wiIl be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
It is this exponent of Brotherhood who so clearly denies the Christ of the Scriptures. In an article entitled, “The Theology of Martin Luther King” published in the National Observer, we quote Dr. King as saying, “I don’t think anyone else can be Jesus. He was one with God in purpose. He so submitted His will to God’s will that God revealed His divine plan to man through Jesus.” He brands the account of the virgin birth of Christ as a “mythological story of Jesus’ biological uniqueness.” This is perfectly all right with him because man is not a sinner, who is judged guilty by the righteous God and therefore requires divine atonement as the way to reconciliation. For Dr. King, sin is, “the estrangement that always develops when man misuses his freedom and revolts against God.” Notice man is free and sin is a misuse of that freedom; to him man is not dead in trespass and sin. From the above, it is obvious that this voice of the Brotherhood movement denies Christ.
The World Council of Churches adopted “Ten Commandments” at their 4th Assembly which met in Upsala this past summer. These commandments are shot through with the same Brotherhood of all men. We list a few:
2. You must support actively the principles of human rights and help black people everywhere become in all respects first class citizens with all the rights and opportunities thereof.
3. You must strive for Christian unity in spirit, truth, and action and help strengthen the new bonds between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches as well as the enlarged unity within the Council itself.
6. You must take the U N’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights seriously and implement its basic principles locally and nationally during the International Year for Human Rights (1968) and thereafter.
7. You must create new forms of individual and corporate worship in order to make Christian social action theologically relevant and seek as a new basis of ecumenical fellowship, to make the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper) not a barrier but a bond within the Christian family.
9. You must be realistic in the achievement of moral, social and economic goals, realizing that the use of secular political action by united Christians is essential in the accomplishments of truly Christian ends.
Obviously, the basis for all these action programs is Brotherhood as related to the universal concept of Humanism. Not one of the “Ten Commandments” refers to human depravity, the need for the redemption of the blood of Christ, or the like. Man is basically good; he just needs a good example and a gentle nudge along the right path. This is anti-Christian.
Even the Christian Reformed Church in the decision of the Synod of 1959, “Declaration on Race Relations” follows a similar broad basis. We quote this as referred to in the Reformed Journal, September 1968 issue, “The fundamental unity and brotherhood of the whole human race” was affirmed by the Synod. In addition, “The decisive consideration in all race relations, namely, the command of God that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. The duty of the Christian Church to avoid even a semblance of prejudice and discrimination; indeed to take the leadership in promoting brotherhood. The calling to regard Christians of any race as fellow members of the body of Christ, bound to us by the closest of ties. The duty of the Church to avoid association with racist slogans of any kind, and in every matter of race relations to act, no matter what the cost, in humility and obedience to her Savior and Sovereign Lord.”
The perplexing point of this decision is the broad basis for concern for the negro neighbor; it is based upon the fundamental unity and brotherhood of the whole human race. This brotherhood must be promoted. This led Dr. George Stob to write an article, “Where is your brother” and in this article considers any black neighbor as a brother; we must be his keeper. Scripture denies there is any fundamental unity and brotherhood of the whole human race. Sin has created a sharp division, and the only unity is that which is realized through the redemption of Christ. The only unity in the world is the unity of the Church of Christ. The only brotherhood in the world is the brotherhood of the Church of Christ. Outside of this Church there is only enmity, confusion, and every evil work.
LOVE THY NEIGHBOR, A PROPER BASIS
What then is the proper basis for concern for our neighbor, particularly one who is being abused, discriminated against, and even hated?
The basis is given to us in the Word of God, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and great commandment and the second is like to this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets,” Matt. 22:37-40.
The basis for concern is not that he is a human being, not that he is my brother (at least not in all instances), but he is my neighbor!
This love of the neighbor includes basically two things:
1. That the Christian Church brings the Word of God to all those that are round about them. Essentially this consists of the preaching of the Word through the institute church. This love is manifest not in making salvation available to all neighbors, but rather that through the call of the gospel, God will draw out of all our neighbors those whom He is pleased to save and bring into the true brotherhood of the Church. For those who have no place in this brotherhood, the preaching is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.
It is exactly at this crucial point that popular dissent, which opens the way for civil rights and social reform, fails. According to the Word of God, man’s misery is not first of all whether he is poor, or cold, or bothered by rats; rather man’s misery is that he is a sinner before God. Love that is worthy of true brotherhood directs the sinner to his sins and calls him to repentance and salvation in Jesus Christ. The basicdissent according to the Word of God is against sin. God is a righteous God and hates the sinner and his sin. The only hope of escape is by the grace of repentance and forgiveness through the cross. This is accomplished through the preaching of the gospel.
2. The same Word of God directs our attention to a proper attitude and conduct on the part of the Christian to his neighbor. In distinction from the above this applies to the relationship of the organic church toward the neighbor. As members of the Body of Christ, each one of us has a calling to express this love of Christ in very word and deed toward our neighbor. Only then does the preaching of the Word bear fruit in our daily lives.
This love of the neighbor does not overlook his sins and seek a friendship on mere carnal attraction. Rather, it, too, is expressed as a dissent to all evil, whether in our lives or the lives of our neighbors. Christian witness to the neighbor directs him to bow before the law of God.
From this point of view, if we see one of our neighbors hating and abusing another of our neighbors, we rise up in holy indignation. We may not say, it does not concern me; it does, as we must give account before God for all our dealings or lack of dealings with the neighbor. The spirituality of our neighbor, whether believer or unbeliever, may not determine whether we care or not. We are commanded to express love to all our neighbors. Living out of Christ is spelled out for us in Eph. 4:24-32, “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness . . . Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth . . . Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice, and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” This must apply to all our neighbors, even our enemies, Matt. 5:44. The reason is both negative, that if the neighbor continues in sin he will heap to himself coals of judgment, (“Therefore if thy enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” Rom. 12:20, 21) and positive, (“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven,”) and this is salvation. We may be a means to gain others for Christ.
Among the poor and colored are some of our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. In expressing dissent against their mistreatment and seeking to help them, this word of God applies, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you . . . for I was an hungered and ye gave me meat, I was thirsty and ye gave me drink, I was a stranger and ye took me in; naked and ye clothed me . . . Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
The Lord willing in our next article we will consider how this concern should be expressed, particularly as it applies to methods of expressing dissent. To what extent should the church become involved? Is there room for co-operation with others who have a false basis? Does the end justify the means even to the point of violence?
Think about it.