Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Our task today
The following extract is from P T Forsyth's The Cruciality of the Cross. It's the second half of a long paragraph covering pages 24/5. I've posted the earlier part of the paragraph here if you feel this second, longer section is missing anything. However, it's this second section that's pertinent to this blog, with its focus on mission. Forsyth doesn't usually use the word mission much (although it does appear, in a form, towards the end of this extract) but it seems to me that this is precisely what he's talking about here. (I've broken it up slightly to aid reading it online.)
What is our task today? It is to take the mass of men (and not only the masses) – inert and hopeless some, others indifferent, others hostile to God – and to reconcile them with God’s holy will and righteous kingdom; but to reconcile them less with the ideal of a kingdom of God than with His way of it. They are keen enough about a kingdom which glorifies human ideals, but the trouble is about God’s ideal and God’s way, about Christ and His cross as the way as well as the goal. The task is to destroy our national and social dislike of that enthusiasm of the cross, to supplant lust by that higher ardour, to bend the strongest wills to the obedience of the holiest, and by moral regeneration to restore men both physically and socially.
This is a tremendous task. It is the whole object of history. It is far beyond socialism. And no laws can do it, and no change of circumstances, but only Jesus Christ. It is the fruit of His work, of His holy love, His holy spirit, and His holy Church, all flowing from His holy cross. Let us not mistake the kindly fruits of the cross for the moral principle of it. The fruits will not give the principle, but the principle will give the fruits.
And the more we are preoccupied with social righteousness so much the more we are driven to that centre where the whole righteousness of God and man found consummation, and adjustment, and a power and a career, in the saving judgement of Christ’s cross. Public liberty rest [sic] on inward freedom; and the cross alone gives moral freedom, and moral independence, to the mass of men, who were left to slavery even by the heroic moral aristocracy of stoicism. It is the cross that makes moral worth an infectious power, keeps character from being self-contained [that is, focused on self], and gives a moral guarantee of a steady social future. The cross is the spring, not of self-possessed and individualist righteousness, but of that creative and contagious goodness which makes possible the social state. Only at the centre of the cross does the man find himself in his kind [at home amongst his fellow beings], and both in God. A creative, missionary, and social ethic springs only from religion; and it springs most from the religion which is able to clothe us with the power of the creative, loving, outgoing God.