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2 Cor 3, 1-6 The Church before a Watching world - 1st Mennonite

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A Visible Church before a Watching World


2 Corinthians 3:1-3

 1Are we beginning to commend ourselves again?

Or do we need, like some people,

       letters of recommendation to you or from you?

2You yourselves are our letter,

       written on our hearts,

       known and read by everybody.

3You show that you are a letter from Christ,

       the result of our ministry,

       written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God,

       not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.


Always be prepared to give an answer

to everyone who asks you

to give the reason for the hope that you have.

But do this with gentleness and respect…, 1 Peter 3:15

In Arecibo, Puerto Rico,

       we find the largest Satelite dish in the world.

You know…

       a satelite dish that sends and receives radio signals…

With this “cosmic hearing aid” –

       if we want to call it that,

       scientists are “listening” intensely

       for signs that anyone “out there” in space

       is watching us…

Well, as Christians we have always known

       that we are being watched…

Every day

       at the workplace,

       at school,

       at the community club,

       in our homes and neighborhoods,

       people are watching us,

       and they demand to see the reasons

       for our hope and our faith.


People throughout the ages have argued

       about the nature of the church.

Is the Church a visible reflection

of the kingdom of God?

Or is the Church invisible and mysterious –

       where you never know who is a true Christian

       and who is not.

The most commonly held belief

about the visibility of the Church today,

is that all the members of the church

make up the “visible church”,

but that there is also an “invisible church”,

that is the “true Christians”

who are known to God alone.

Our Anabaptist forebears of the 16th Century

       followed the understanding of the earliest Christians,

       that faith must be visible to all.

Their’s was a very visible faith,

       and many were persecuted and martyred

       on account of what they believed.

Their faith was not something that they could hide

       “for God’s eyes only”.    

Our Anabaptist forebears believed

       that the Church must be visible

       if it is to be the true Body of Christ.

The concern of the church today is the same

       as that of the Early Church

       and of the Anabaptist Reformers.

It is not easy to be a Christian

in a post-Christian world!

I was talking to a high school student

       about Religious Education in Public schools.

She said,

       “you can’t do that;

       you can’t impose your Christian religion

       on a multicultural / multi-religious society.

       That is a thing of the past.”

The same applies to the workplace.

       If your boss wants you to work on Sundays,

       or on Good Friday and Christmas

       (some of our main Christian Holidays)

       in many situations you just don’t have a choice

       unless you’re in the market for a new job.

Also, our’s is a society that has little tolerance

       for the church to take a firm stand

       on moral or even political issue…

Many would argue

       that the church should mind it’s own business and

       not be involved in politics at all.

This may be a bit of a hot button

       since we are headed for the polls tomorrow…

As Christians we are keenly aware

       that the world is watching us…

The world is watching every step…

       every action of the Church and its members…

       seeking to damage the credibility

       of the Christian witness.

Francis Schaefer,

       speaking to the Church and to Christians, said,

       “It is important to show forth beauty

before a lost world and a lost generation.

All too often people have not been wrong

in saying that the church is ugly.

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

we are called upon to show to a watching world

and to our own young people

that the church is something beautiful.”

All to often we lack the love we’re supposed to have,

       and instead what the world sees

       is church conflict and disunity…

       abuse of power among members…

       poisonous backbiting and gossip…


       and many other God-dishonoring qualities.

The world is watching us…

and our young people are watching us…

There are really two dimensions to this issue:

       First, the witness of the individual…

       And second, the witness of the Congregation as a body.

When we read the book of Acts

       and the letters of Paul,

       we notice that new believers were very visible

       and very active in impacting their world for Christ.

The first few chapters of the Acts of the Apostles (4:20)

       tell us that they “could not keep quiet

       about what [they] have seen and heard”.

The impact of that witness was that

       many came to faith in Jesus Christ

       and the Church grew.

We can imagine that the Roman and the Jewish world…

       the watching world of that time –

       was puzzled about the success

       of the Christian movement.

The Epistle to Diognetus,

       which is a secular document,

written sometime between 100 and 150 AD,

describes the life of Christians

from the perspective of the watching world.

Allow me to read some portions of this letter

The writer says,

“the Christians are distinguished from other people

neither by country, nor language,

nor the customs which they observe.

For they neither inhabit cities of their own,

nor employ a peculiar form of speech,

they don’t lead a life

which is marked out by anything special.

The conduct which they follow

has not been invented by any great theologian;

they do not advocate merely human doctrines.

But, living in Greek as well as Barbarian cities,

they follow the customs of the natives

in respect to clothing, food,

and the rest of their ordinary conduct,

and yet they display a wonderful and striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries,

but simply as sojourners.

As citizens, they share in all things with others,

and yet endure all things as if foreigners.

Every foreign land is to them as their native country,

and every land of their birth as a land of strangers.

They marry, as do all [others];

they beget children;

but they do not destroy their offspring.

(Explanation: Pagans would often kill their babies (espeially girls)

       because they were an economic burden).

They have a common table,

but not a common bed.

Explanation: They had all things in common,

food, property, posessions,

but, they held to strickt moral standards

of marriage and sexuality.

They are in the flesh,

but they do not live after the flesh.

They pass their days on earth,

but they are citizens of heaven.

 They obey the prescribed laws,

and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives.

They love all men,

and are persecuted by all.

They are unknown and condemned;

they are put to death,

and restored to life.

They are poor,

yet make many rich;

they are in lack of all things,

and yet abound in all;

they are dishonoured,

and yet in their very dishonour are glorified.

They are evil spoken of,

and yet are justified;       

they are reviled,

and they bless those who revile them;

they are insulted,

and repay the insult with honour;

they do good,

yet are punished as evil-doers.

When punished,

they rejoice as if quickened into life;

they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners,

and are persecuted by the Greeks;

yet those who hate them

are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

To sum up it all up in one word -

what the soul is in the body,

that are Christians in the world.

The soul is dispersed

through all the members of the body,

and Christians are scattered

through all the cities of the world.

The soul dwells in the body,

yet is not of the body;

and Christians dwell in the world,

yet are not of the world.


Christians… love those that hate them.

The soul is imprisoned in the body,

yet it preserves that very body;

and Christians are confined in the world as in a prison,

and yet they are the preservers of the world.

The immortal soul dwells in a mortal tabernacle;

and Christians dwell as sojourners in corruptible [bodies],

       looking for an incorruptible dwelling in the heavens.

The soul, when it is ill

and when it is provided with food and drink,

becomes better;

in like manner, the Christians,

though subjected day by day to punishment,

they increase the more in number.”

(So far from the letter to Diognetus).

I don’t know about you,

       but I get goose-bumps when I read such a letter.

“What the soul is in the body…

       that are Christians in the world.”

This Church, as described by a pagan observer,

       is a true witness –

       a visible manifestation of God’s presence in the world.

They could not keep quiet…

Their very lives…

       not only their words…

       but their every action…

       proclaimed Jesus Christ as Lord

       and victor over sin and death.

They were convinced,

       that you can’t keep quiet,

       if God has marked you for Life

       through Jesus Christ.

The life of the first Christians was characterized

       by repentance, rebirth,

       and new life in Christ.

They walked in the power of the resurrection daily.

       They took their discipleship seriously.

       They knew what it meant to follow Jesus

       in a pagan culture.

The Anabaptists of the 16th Century

       likewise believed that

       the church is a lantern in a dark place,

       a beacon to light the way

       to those in the darkness of this world.

The church is visible before the watching eyes of the world,

       because we live our lives in public

       in obedience to Jesus Christ.

The Bible gives us a few hints

       about the blimps that show up on the radar screen

       as the world is watching.

1.    Jesus said, “By this they will know

       that you are my disciples,

       if you have love one for another.”

This quality is so basic – so essencial –

       and yet often so hard to live out

       even in our own communities of faith.

Friends, let us love one another,

       so that the world may see…

2.    When followers of Christ break bread together

              we are making a radical statement

              about the nature of the Church.

       In the breaking of the bread,

              social, racial and economic barriers are broken down.

       In Christ we are equal.

       There is no difference in value between man and woman,

              Free and slave,

              Jew or Greek.

       This was a profoundly revolutionary act

              of the early Church.

       What does the watching world see today

              when we gather around the table of the Lord?

3.    Another practice of the Christian Church

       before the watching world,

       is the practice of binding and loosing.

In Matth. 18, Jesus gives us a formula

       for dealing with conflict in the church.

This is a model of Conflict transformation

       that is radically different from the way of the world.

Conflicts are resolved through direct contact

and compassionate confrontation,

with the intention to bring the erring brother/sister back

into community.

And only as a last resort,

to deny fellowship to the unrepentant one.  

4.    Baptism is another practice of the church

that is highly visible in the eyes of the world.

In the act of baptism

       we renounce the ways of the world,

       and we make a covenant to re-orient our lives

       to the will of God.

In baptism we promise to obey God

       more than Caesar,

       to honor God as our highest authority,

       and to live a pure and holy life.

In baptism we also submit ourselves

       to be accountable to each other

       for our life-choices.

In baptism we die to sin and the way of the world,

       and we rise to a new life in Christ.

There are many other practices of the church

   that the world watches, and observes, and criticises.

So, what does this mean for you and me

       in our daily lives

       as representatives of Jesus Christ

       in a world full of hate and immorality?

How are we to be visible

as individual Christians and as a Christian Church?

As individuals we must strive to follow to greatest command:

       “Love the Lord your God

       with all your heart and soul and mind,

       and love your neighbor as yourself.”

If we do that,

       there are many choices that are already made for us,

       because we are citizens of heaven.

There are also many examples of what it means for the Church

       to be a witness to the wider society.

The visible Church all over the world

       Is actively involved in bringing about

              The kingdom of God.

Let me ask you a personal question:

Are you a visible Christian?

Do other people recognize you as a follower of Jesus?

And if so,


How do you deal with conflict?

       What do you do with your possessions and finances?

I met a man recently who is part of a Christian community

       That holds its members accountable

              Not only for the 10% tithe that they give to God,

                     But also for what they do

                           With the remaining 90% of their income.

Boy, that one would turn some heads,

       Don’t you think?

In 2 Corinthians 3

       Paul tells the Corinthians and us also,

              “You are a letter of recommendation of Christ  

              to the world.

              A letter written not on stone or paper,

              But written on human hearts.”

So my friends,

My brothers and sisters,

go out into the world,

              where your faith will be tested and mocked,

                     And let the world see

                           That you have been changed

through Jesus Christ.

2 Cor. 2:15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God

among those who are being saved

and among those who are perishing.

Your witness makes a difference!

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