Review & Apply | IF:Gathering

Review & Apply

Religion and Power
This week we have tracked the whirlwind relationship between religious forces and political power in medieval times. On Day 1 we saw Gregory the Great take on the mantle of a servant during the collapse of the Roman Empire. On Day 2 we saw Islam sweep through the East and loosen the church’s hold in the very lands where she first preached the gospel. On Day 3 we saw a pope crown a European emperor in an effort to resurrect the Roman Empire. Yesterday we considered how the pope came to have so much authority, and how that set up some of the sticky church-state relations that riddled the Middle Ages.

Sacred and Secular
Today we tend to think of political states as independent, sovereign entities without any religious a liation; the church is seen as a voluntary association that exists apart from the rest of society. But, as we’ve seen in the past week, both of these notions didn’t exist in the Middle Ages.Instead the sacred (the spiritual realm of the church) and the secular (the “ordinary” realm of nature and politics) were perceived as existing in harmony. Today, we are prone to see church life as different from one’s life at work or school or everyday life. Whereas, during the Middle Ages, the church overlapped with all of life—from education to politics to art. From this understanding we must ask, how can we forge more space in our lives for the sacred and let God orient our lives instead of the world? At the same time, instead of condemning the secular as all bad, how can we find and celebrate God’s beauty and truth in the world around us?

Church and State
Look at the news headlines today, and it’s clear that the issues we’ve studied this week are not just things of the past. Over a millennium later, Islam is still a force that Christians need to learn to engage with the hope and grace of the gospel. We may no longer be in an age of “Christendom,” but we are no less in need of wisdom to navigate the relationship between religious authority and political power. We look at some church leaders (like Gregory the Great) and see fellow disciples who are worthy of imitation and whom we rejoice to claim as family. Then we see other church leaders who—like some popes—make us sympathize with one critic of Christianity who said he would believe in Jesus as Redeemer if His disciples looked a little more redeemed.
Where do you see the church today either serving faithfully, or confusing earthly and heavenly power? Where do you see yourself joining in, or adding to the confusion? Where in your own life do you feel tempted to grasp the world’s standards of success and in uence, and how can you instead adopt the posture of a humble servant?


I think that all of it have me a new wndclearr perspective of where Christianity came from in comparison to where it is today. It helps me to see that there are still a lot of the same tensions even with the separation of church and state. It was also interesting to link the locations of Islamic power to that of places with important Biblical reference and shows how that shifted the church in a new direction of growth after this occurred. The story of Gregory the Great, to me, helps to show how we are on mission in our current place that God has us and that if we serve Him regardless of our position and show His love beyond all else, people will see Him through us and will be drawn to Him.

This week has reminded me of the great work that CARE do in the UK. My brother did a leadership program with them which puts Christians in areas of influence working with a Member of Parliament or an NGO (you get the opportunity to do speech writing, research, advocacy, media engagement and public relations etc) and have a practical opportunity to be salt and light in culture whilst learning about Parliament and political advocacy.
From talking to him, and from reading about church history this week, I'm more convinced about the importance of engaging with the secular, being salt and light and advocating for Gospel centred principles and policies in an effort to bring a taste of heaven to earth for the world to experience.

Just this week at church we were talking about what we need to do to have a bigger God influence in our community. It's comfortable to be in a bubble of other believers and get so caught up in ministering to those who share the same faith as we do but that is not what we were commanded to do in Matthew 28:19. We will never be comfortable here on earth because this is not our home and this study has brought to light that the battle of church and state has been ongoing since the beginning of the church. The uncomfortable rub of being a believer in a secular society is not going away. I agree Heather, we have got to engage with the secular. By definition, another term for secular is temporal. I think this is why a lot of believers feel a sense of urgency about this subject, as we should.

It's interesting what I learned about church and state this week. It makes perfect sense that c and s will never be in harmony until we are in heaven. This perspective gives me relief to know that I am to continually pray for my country but that God is in control of all of it. My longing is like the Lord's Prayer 'on earth as it is in heaven'.
Also it's interesting how Islam is more known to us nowadays vs when I was young. I'm still thinking that through.

Yes. I am almost 52 and never remember hearing about Islam until 20 years ago or so. and the growth and spread of it is amazing.

Church history is so rich and varied. We would expect that a church led society would be ideal, that harmony would prevail, and people would be living together as in the early church of the New Testament. But time and again, power takes control and the gospel is distorted. That gives opportunity for false teachings and doctrine to gain a foothold, then to grow.
Salvation cannot come to individuals through laws and political control. It is a matter of the heart and spirit. Legalization of faith cannot have the same outcome as freely choosing to follow Christ. It is the same with any government religious leaders, we see it worldwide. The pope can, and was, overcome with power, prestige and control. That is not good for any nation.

I was struck by the opening illustrations today: How can we forge more space in our lives for the sacred and let God orient our lives instead of the world? I will pray and ponder on that for the weekend!

There is ONE thing that has remained constant and that is God!

I just want to say what an awesome, worthwhile conversation this is. It is a challenge to all of us, as the people of God, to remember that we aren't likely to fit into any of society's"boxes"...Jesus certainly didn't. We have to be concerned with working for the Kingdom. When we contribute to making all things new-advocating for the poor, the marginalized, spreading the Good News through our words and actions, we get a glimpse of what is one day coming. Lord, help us to keep our eyes fixed on You!

Most notable to me is the repercussions we [the Body] face when we fail to be salt and light - it shows the importance of our witness and example.

When we allow the things of this world to capture our hearts and consume our minds - whether it is big and flashy (power, fame, influence) or small and personal (our agendas, unchecked desires) - we become sidetracked from our original mission and purpose of loving God and loving others and end up just loving ourselves.

I love what Dr. Glenn Kreider said, "As we watch Islam and other religions grow, many times it's because of the way the church has failed to be the Church - that things other than the gospel have been the center of who we are." We are to be His hands and feet, firmly planted in His Kingdom...but we can be so fickle, can't we? We try to have dual citizenship - to be a citizen of heaven, but also of this world - and it just doesn't work. God wants all of us so we can reflect and display all of Him.

My hope is that we can learn from our past mistakes; that we can acknowledge and repent, then truly follow hard after Jesus - denying ourselves and taking up our cross. That we can reach back and take hold of the beauty and purity of the gospel - to be an Acts church and people - to watch the Body grow and flourish because people learn they are deeply loved and cared for by a God whose followers really do reflect His image and are working to make His Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.

So much of the past is happening again. As Christians are fighting each other, as culture is trying to make same-sex marriage, transgender, homosexuality, gender neutral, biblical, as the church is trying to remain relevant, there again is a void which Islam,Atheist, Non-Believers are tying to fill. And years of our elected leaders offending Christians knowing we would take the high road have now put Christianity trending down. This has happened before and will happen again, but we need to not let society get away with silencing Christians. We need to be loud and proud on who we are and what we believe! Our light needs to shine bright!

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