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Galatians 1:10–“For am I now seeking the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please [aresko] human beings? If I were still trying to please [aresko] human beings, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

1 Thessalonians 2:3-4–“For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive,  but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please [aresko] human beings, but to please [aresko] God who tests our hearts.”

1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1–“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please [aresko] everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.  Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

Romans 15:1-3–“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please [aresko] ourselves.  Let each of us please [aresko] his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please [aresko] himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.””

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Bauckham“In Jesus’ praxis the characteristics of God’s rule could be identified.  In summary, the rule of God as Jesus’ praxis embodied it was the sovereignty of God’s gracious and fatherly love…

The key to the way that Jesus actualized God’s rule is his loving identification with people…But this could not happen in a purely generalizing way, by preaching an indiscriminate message of God’s benevolence towards everyone.  God’s love through Jesus reached people in their actual, very different life-situations, because Jesus in love identified with people, understood and felt their problems and needs.  Only so could God’s love reach into and change their lives.  While he practiced God’s universal love for all people, Jesus could do so only by constantly particularizing it as God’s love for this or that person in his or her particular situation.

This means that, on the one hand, Jesus’ loving identification with people knew no limits, but, on the other hand, he did not identify with everyone in the same way.  It is important to keep these two sides of the coin in mind.  In the first place, Jesus’ love excluded no one.  He held aloof neither from the outcasts of society nor from the respectable people who were scandalized by the company he kept.  He dined with tax-collectors and sinners, but also with Pharisees…Even Jesus’ highly critical confrontations with religious leaders do not fall outside his loving solidarity with all people: they were the only way he could bring home to such people the character and demands of God’s love as it impinged on their particular situation…

However, it is equally important to notice, secondly, that Jesus did not identify with all these people in the same way.  He met their actual, very different needs for God’s solidarity with them as they themselves were…Jesus particularized God’s love in different ways for different people…

It is in this context of Jesus’ loving identification with all in different ways that we must consider the claim that Jesus’ praxis displayed a preferential concern for the poor.  It would be better to speak of Jesus’ special concern for the marginalized, those who were excluded from society to a greater or lesser degree, since by no means all these people were economically poor.  Tax-collectors most certainly were not, and indeed their despised position in society was partly because they had grown rich, by dubious means, at others’ expense.  Yet they were prominent among those with whom Jesus was notorious for associating.  The key to Jesus’ ‘preference’ for various groups must be their relative exclusion, for social, economic and religious reasons, from the society of God’s people…In his deliberate attempt to reach those who were shunned and forgotten by everyone else, he sought out the most hopeless cases of all: the lepers, whom society treated as more or less already corpses, and the demoniacs, whose condition seemed virtually to exclude them from humanity altogether.

Jesus’ special concern for the marginalized was not a neglect of others.  Rather, Jesus’ mission was to reach all with God’s loving solidarity and thereby create loving solidarity among all.  But for this purpose his special concern had to be the inclusion of those who were excluded from human solidarity and those who felt excluded from God’s solidarity.  Those who excluded others from the solidarity of God’s people could properly learn God’s solidarity with themselves only along with his solidarity with the people they excluded.  Not only for the sake of the tax-collectors and sinners, then, but actually also for the sake of the Pharisees, Jesus identified himself with tax-collectors and sinners.

Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom of God, provisionally present in a fragmentary way through his ministry, was of a society without the privilege and status which favor some and exclude others.  Thus those who had no status in society as it was then constituted were given a conspicuous place in society as God’s rule was reconstituting it through Jesus.  This ensured that the rich and the privileged could find their place only alongside the poor and the underprivileged.  The last became first and the first became last so that there should be no status or privilege at all…

Finally, Jesus, who loved children, make a small child his model of citizenship in God’s Kingdom, because children had no social status.  To enter the Kingdom, all must become like the little child.  Like his preference for children, Jesus’ preference for the tax-collectors and the beggars was not against the others, but for them.  The others must abandon status in order with Jesus to enter the solidarity of the unrighteous, the poor and the children.  There was no other route to the Kingdom of God in which no one is less than or thinks himself more than a neighbor to all others.” (Richard BauckhamThe Bible in Politics: How to Read the Bible Politically, 2nd ed., pp. 142-47)

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Hauerwas“I am in fact challenging the very idea that Christian social ethics is primarily an attempt to make the world more peaceable or just.  Put starkly, the first social ethical task of the church is to be the church–the servant community.  Such a claim may well sound self-serving until we remember that what makes the church the church is its faithful manifestation of the peaceable kingdom in the world.  As such the church does not have a social ethic; the church is a social ethic.

The church is where the stories of Israel and Jesus are told, enacted, and heard, and it is our conviction that as a Christian people there is literally nothing more important we can do…The church does not let the world set its agenda about what constitutes a ‘social ethic,’ but a church of peace and justice must set its own agenda…By being that kind of community we see that the church helps the world understand what it means to be the world.  For the world has no way of knowing it is world without the church pointing to the reality of God’s kingdom…The scandal of the disunity of the church is even more painful when we recognize this social task.  For we who have been called to be the foretaste of the peaceable kingdom cannot, it seems, maintain unity among ourselves.  As a result we abandon the world to its own devices…

Therefore the first social task of the church–the people capable of remembering and telling the story of God we find in Jesus–is to be the church and thus help the world understand itself as world…For the church to be the church, therefore, is not anti-world, but rather an attempt to show what the world is meant to be as God’s good creation…

Therefore calling for the church to be the church is not a formula for a withdrawal ethic; nor is it a self-righteous attempt to flee from the world’s problems; rather it is a call for the church to be a community which tries to develop the resources to stand within the world witnessing to the peaceable kingdom and thus rightly understanding the world.  The gospel is a political gospel.  Christians are engaged in politics, but it is a politics of the kingdom that reveals the insufficiency of all politics based on coercion and falsehood and finds the true source of power in servanthood rather than dominion…The church therefore is a polity like any other, but it is also unlike any other insofar as it is formed by a people who have no reason to fear the truth.  They are able to exist in the world without resorting to coercion to maintain their presence…

Christians are the community of a new age which must continue to exist in the old age…The church must learn time and time again that its task is not to make the world the kingdom, but to be faithful to the kingdom by showing to the world what it means to be a community of peace.  Thus we are required to be patient and never lose hope…[For] God does not rule creation through coercion, but through a cross.  As Christians, therefore, we seek not so much to effective as to be faithful–we, thus, cannot do that which promises ‘results’ when the means are unjust…There are some things we cannot do, no matter what good might accrue.” (Stanley HauerwasThe Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics, pp. 99-104)

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Newbigin“When the old classical worldview lost its confidence and disintegrated, it was perhaps inevitable that the ruling power [i.e. Rome] should turn to the Church as the integrating power for a new social order.  That had enormous consequences for good over the succeeding millennium.  It created the Christian civilization of Europe.  But it also led the Church into the fatal temptation to use the secular power to enforce conformity to Christian teaching…

What could it mean for the Church to make once again the claim which it made in its earliest centuries, the claim to provide the public truth by which society can be given coherence and direction?  Certainly it cannot mean a return to the use of coercion to impose belief.  That is, in any case, impossible.  Assent to the claim of Christ has to be given in freedom…

The question of power is inescapable…There is no ‘secular’ neutrality.  Christians cannot evade the responsibility which a democratic society gives to every citizen to seek access to the levers of power.  But the issue has never confronted the Church in this way before; we are in a radically new situation and cannot dream either of a Constantinian authority or of a pre-Constantinian innocence.  What is to be done?  How is it possible that the one who was nailed helpless to a cross should be seen by society as the ultimate source of power?…

In a necessary reaction against the idea of a Church which acts as God’s viceroy on earth, a triumphalist Church, we have in recent years emphasized the servant role of the Church.  We are here rightly seeking to follow the example of Jesus, who defined his role as that of a servant (for example, Mark 10:45).  But this servant role can be misunderstood.  Jesus did not allow himself to be simply at the disposal of others.  The temptations at the outset of his ministry were temptations to do what people wanted the Messiah to do…In serving human need, Jesus remains master.  The servant who washes the feet of his disciples is their master and lord, and it is in serving that he exercises his lordship (John 13:13-14)…

How is it possible for the Church truly to represent the reign of God in the world in the way Jesus did?…I confess that I have come to feel that the primary reality of which we have to take account in seeking for a Christian impact on public life in the Christian congregation.  How is it possible that the gospel should be credible, that people should come to believe that the power which has the last word in human affairs is represented by a man hanging on a cross?  I am suggesting that the only answer, the only hermeneutic of the gospel, is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it.  I am, of course, not denying the importance of the many activities by which we seek to challenge public life with the gospel–evangelistic campaigns, distribution of Bibles and Christian literature, conferences, and even books such as this one.  But I am saying that these are all secondary, and that they have power to accomplish their purpose only as they are rooted in and lead back to a believing community.

Jesus, as I said earlier. did not write a book but formed a community…It exists in and for him.  He is the center of its life.  Its character is given to it, when it is true to its nature, not by the characters of its members but by his character.  Insofar as it is true to its calling, it becomes the place where men and women and children find that the gospel gives them the framework of understanding, the ‘lenses’ through which they are able to understand and cope with the world.” (Lesslie NewbiginThe Gospel in a Pluralist Society, pp. 223-27)

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Stott“William Temple used to illustrate the point [that Christians are capable of living like Christ through the indwelling Spirit] in this way:

‘It is no good giving me a play like Hamlet or King Lear, and telling me to write a play like that.  Shakespeare could do it; I can’t.

And it is no good showing me a life like the life of Jesus and telling me to live a life like that.  Jesus could do it; I can’t.

But if the genius of Shakespeare could come and live in me, then I could write plays like his.

And if the Spirit of Jesus could come and live in me, then I could live a life his his.’

God’s purpose is to make us like Christ, and God’s way is to fill us with his Holy Spirit.” (John StottRadical Disciple, p. 37)

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Calvin“They [Calvin’s opponents] contend that through the justification of faith, good works are destroyed…They pretend to be grieved that, when faith is so gloriously extolled, works are degraded.  What if, rather, these were encouraged and strengthened?  For we dream neither of a faith devoid of good works nor of a justification that stands without them.  This alone is of importance: having admitted that faith and good works must cleave together, we still lodge justification in faith, not in works.  We have a ready explanation for doing this, provided we turn to Christ to whom our faith is directed and from whom it receives its full strength.

Why, then, are we justified by faith?  Because by faith we grasp Christ’s righteousness, by which alone we are reconciled to God.  Yet you could not grasp this without at the same time grasping sanctification also.  For he ‘is given unto us for righteousness, wisdom, sanctification, and redemption’ [1 Cor. 1:30].  Therefore Christ justifies no one whom he does not at the same time sanctify.  These benefits are joined together by an everlasting and indissoluble bond…Those whom he justifies, he sanctifies…

Although we may distinguish them, Christ contains both of them inseparably in himself.  Do you wish, then, to attain righteousness in Christ?  You must first possess Christ; but you cannot possess him without being made partaker in his sanctification, because he cannot be divided into pieces [1 Cor. 1:13].  Since, therefore, it is solely by expending himself that the Lord gives us these benefits to enjoy, he bestows both of them at the same time, the one never without the other.  Thus it is clear how true it is that we are justified not without works yet not through works, since in our sharing in Christ, which justifies us, sanctification is just as much included as righteousness.” (John CalvinInstitutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, 3.16.1, p. 797-98)

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Hauerwas“There can be no sanctification of individuals without a sanctified people.  We need examples and masters, and if we are without either, the church cannot exist as a people who are are pledged to be different from the world…[This leads to] the status and necessity of the church as the locus for Christian ethical reflection.  It is from the church that Christian ethics draws its ethical substance and it is to the church that Christian ethical reflection is first addressed.  Christian ethics is not written for everyone, but for those people who have been formed by the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus.  Therefore Christian ethics can never be a minimalistic ethic for everyone, but must presuppose a sanctified people wanting to live more faithful to God’s story.

The fact that Christian ethics begins and ends with a story requires a corresponding community existing across time.  The story of God as told through the experience of Israel and the church cannot be abstracted from those communities engaged in the telling and the hearing.  As a story it cannot exist without a historic people, for it requires telling and remembering if it is to exist at all.  God has entrusted his presence to a historic and contingent community which can never rest on its past success, but must be renewed generation after generation.  That is why the story is not merely told but embodied in a people’s habits that form and are formed in worship, governance, and morality.

Therefore the existence of Israel and the church are not accidentally related to the story but are necessary for our knowledge of God.  You cannot tell the story of God without including within it the story of Israel and the church.  So it is not odd that as part of the creed we affirm that we believe in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church…It is only through such a people that the world can know that our God is one who wills nothing else than our good…

In a sense, the place of the Bible can be misleading in this respect, because it may appear that Scripture conveys the story regardless of the existence of a historic people.  You do not need an intergenerational community.  All you need is the story told rightly in a book.  But the Bible without the community, without expounders and interpreters, and hearers is a dead book.” (Stanley HauerwasThe Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics, pp. 97-98)

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