When we collectively voted the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ into being last November, we adopted a list of foundational justice commitments, claiming ourselves as a justice church. I believe that we can make these statements precisely because discipleship matters. Following the Jesus that we read about in the Gospels calls us to do justice for all God’s people and leads directly to our justice commitments. Jesus’ life and teaching was all about justice. In the Hebrew scriptures, the call for justice is ubiquitous, the most famous coming from Micah 6:8:
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Jesus knew these scriptures and he knew that his 1st century listeners also knew these scriptures so his ministry was all about teaching how one lives in a way that makes the call for justice real in the world. And we know that as followers of Jesus, as latter-day disciples of Jesus, we are also called to do justice.
This link between the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the work of justice in our time is so often lost on many who self-identify as Christians. But I maintain that without this work for justice, we cannot call ourselves Christians. And that is why faith formation in our churches is so very important. Helping young and not-so-young folks understand that our faith as a verb is at the very heart of our work. Making that link between seeking to be followers of Jesus and working toward the beloved community is the lesson that we should be teaching at all times. When I was in divinity school, my preaching professor, Tom Troeger, told us that every single sermon we preach should be about loving God and loving neighbor. I think that same thing is true about what we as faith formulators must do. The lessons we teach must be about loving God and loving neighbor. And we cannot claim to love our neighbors unless we are seeking justice for each and every one.
The Southern New England Conference’s vision starts with the statement that the local church exists to make disciples of Jesus. Making the link between discipleship and justice is how it’s done. That is why discipleship matters.
The Rev. Marilyn Kendrix is Bridge Conference Minister. Kendrix, a 2013 graduate of Yale Divinity, earned that school’s Henry Hallam Tweedy Prize for exceptional promise in pastoral leadership, the highest prize conferred on a graduating student ...