Giving Honor Where Honor is Due

One of the great joys for me as a pastor is to look out in a room (or online!) and see all the different ways the image of God is expressed in our people at Mosaic, and for a moment, I’d like to draw your attention to our brothers and sisters of Latin and Hispanic descent, especially in light of the fact that it is Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States.

And, I’d like to highlight one way in particular people of Hispanic descent have deeply shaped my life, and yours too, though you may not have known it:

1974 was a pivotal year for the church of Jesus, especially for Protestant Evangelical churches. That year, a global conference was called by Billy Graham and held that year in Lausanne, Switzerland, to carve a path forward for all those who loved Jesus, held his Word high honor, and who desired to share Him with others as the only “name under heaven by which we can be saved” (Acts 4:12).

One of the key questions on the table was, essentially, how should the church of Jesus move out into the world? What message and actions should it take? Should it focus on evangelism and gospel proclamation, as more traditionally conservative churches did? Or should it focus on social work, feeding the poor and speaking up for human rights, as more traditionally liberal churches did?

Led again, by Billy Graham and John Stott, an American and a Brit, the members of the Congress struggled to find a path forward- until leaders of churches from South and Central America stepped forward, and to each question, essentially said, yes.

With excellent theology and position papers, steeped in the battlefields of poverty, human rights abuses, and of fighting doctrinal errors from the Roman Catholic churches around them, these brilliant and brave church leaders were transformational in helping the entire conference arrive at the creation of what is known as the “Lausanne Covenant”, a document which has helped serve as a kind of “North Star” for those who would come after.

What follows, and I would encourage you to read it, is the paragraph entitled “Christian Social Responsibility”, drafted initially by these Hispanic theologians and church leaders, edited by John Stott, affirmed by Billy Graham, and signed by Evangelical leaders from more than 150 countries:

“We affirm that God is both the Creator and the Judge of all men. We therefore should share his concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society and for the liberation of men from every kind of oppression. Because mankind is made in the image of God, every person, regardless of race, religion, colour, culture, class, sex or age, has an intrinsic dignity because of which he should be respected and served, not exploited. Here too we express penitence both for our neglect and for having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive. Although reconciliation with man is not reconciliation with God, nor is social action evangelism, nor is political liberation salvation, nevertheless we affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty. For both are necessary expressions of our doctrines of God and man, our love for our neighbour and our obedience to Jesus Christ. The message of salvation implies also a message of judgment upon every form of alienation, oppression and discrimination, and we should not be afraid to denounce evil and injustice wherever they exist. When people receive Christ they are born again into his kingdom and must seek not only to exhibit but also to spread its righteousness in the midst of an unrighteous world. The salvation we claim should be transforming us in the totality of our personal and social responsibilities. Faith without works is dead.”

In short, those Christian leaders of Hispanic descent have shaped me, this church, the church of Jesus in the United States, and the global church of Jesus as well.

For this remarkable contribution, among countless others, I give thanks, for we have a better past and a brighter, more righteous future because of our brothers and sisters of Hispanic heritage.

Gloria a Dios!

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