The Calling of the Christian in the Midst of a Troubled World

September 22, 2020   •   blog post by Prof. Pierre Berthoud blog

Faith and works

Among the Protestant Churches, heirs of the Reformation, good deeds have no place in the process of redemption. Indeed, salvation is a free gift of God to all those who realise that they are orphans, in other words separated from their ultimate Vis-à-vis. However, good deeds are important in so far as they are the fruit of faith and therefore at the heart of the life of the individual or the community, whether in the Church or in the city. Such a connection between faith and works draws its inspiration from Scripture itself. As the Apostle James says very well, “faith in itself, if it doesn’t have works, is dead” (James 2:17 ESV). This link is so strong that the author goes as far as to ask the question: “… what good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” (verse 14, ESV).

The importance of creation

To fully understand this perspective, it is crucial to consider for a moment the account of creation in the first chapters of Genesis, for it gives us the framework in which the human vocation is called to unfold. This account emphasizes that:

  1. The universe is not a mere extension of the deity. While dependent upon God, it is distinct from the Creator and enjoys a relative autonomy.
  2. After the fashion of the created world (objects and living beings), human being are also creatures. They are, therefore, in solidarity with the whole of creation.
  3. Created in the image of God, men and women are, however, not to be confused with creation. They are distinct from it and called to live in an intimate relationship with their ultimate Vis-à-vis. Like him, they are personal beings, who think and communicate, love and seek justice, deliberate and act.
  4. Human beings are thus mandated to be administrators, assistant-governors of the Lord (Gen 1:26-28). They are to fulfil the responsibility of managing creation, with wisdom, goodness and respect (Gen 2:15).
  5. Civilisation and its various activities, such as agriculture, industry and technology, culture and the arts, are therefore to be implemented not by gods, but by ordinary and mortal people (Gen 4:17-22).

The word in the midst of the covenant

  1. This human vocation is to be lived within the covenantal relationship initiated by the Lord and it implies listening to and respecting His Word (Gen 2:16-17). This will be all the more true after the irruption of evil and sin in the world, the consequence of the subsequent use of human freedom (Gen 3:1-6). This covenant relationship is well illustrated by the builders of the sanctuary who, while they were very skilful artisans, were filled by the Spirit of God (Ex 31:2-4).
  2. Whether it be in the area of the defence of widows, of orphans, of caring for the poor, of the plea in favour of justice including social justice, of political government, of economical enterprise, of education, of cultural and artistic initiative and of the stewardship of creation, the covenantal relationship, nourished by the divine word, wisdom and laws, enlightens and inspires fair, good and constructive actions.
  3. As he reiterates the summary of the law in the Gospels, Jesus highlights the heart of the covenant: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself” (Luke 10:27, ESV).
  4. Wisdom, justice and love embrace one another in Jesus Christ and are embodied in his life and redemptive work. This enables Paul to say while speaking of the glory to come: “For the creation was subjected to futility… in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom 8:20-21, ESV).

Meanwhile those who have responded by faith to the gift of divine grace bear the calling to work for peace in the Church as well as in the city. They are the heralds and artisans of justice, of righteousness and of love for their neighbours in all the spheres of human existence.

Prof. Pierre Berthoud
France