ct: engaging the world

Unlike religions that draw their converts away from this world, a faith informed by … [the cross] … constrains the community of discipleship to enter into its historical situation with a new kind of openness, attentiveness, and compassion. … We are inclined to create for ourselves spaces apart, havens of withdrawal; for we know all too well that unprotected exposure to the world – to our here and now – is never painless, even at the best of time. Who can contemplate the kind of life undertaken by the great Christian activists of our epoch – Martin Luther King, Jr., Jan Vanier, Mother Theresa, Dorothy Day, Helder Camera, and others – without feeling incapable of such vulnerability? Despite our admiration for such figures, we are apt to find more appeal in a religion that provides sanctuary from the world, or at least a reliable insulation against the world’s insidious taunts, temptations, and revenges. As the cross of Jesus makes entirely plain to all who follow in his steps, those who seek great proximity to the world must be prepared to experience rebuff: the world is governed by a strange wrath that is most vengeful against those who choose to love it. For, its complacency and conceit notwithstanding, the world does not love itself. …

… neither will the world be engaged if … a religious body refuses to enter its world with sufficient abandon to arouse the world’s interest or curiosity. In biblical terms, the disciple community is called to be in the world yet not of the world – or … not of the world, but most decidedly in it. …

For the gospel is not the possession of the church: good news must always be discovered and rediscovered by the church – heard again in all its newness and goodness; heard, that is to say, in relation to the specifics of the here and now. The disciple community formulates its articulation of good news only as it experiences and seeks to comprehend the bad news that is just at this moment oppressing God’s beloved world. (Douglas John Hall, The Cross in Our Context, pp.53-54,56,59)

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