The Bible in Dialogue with Questions of the Day: Christ at God’s Right hand Source and Guide of Christian Living

Dialogue with modern society:  some guiding principles. All meaningful dialogue must begin, and be conducted, in an awareness of one’s basic position. The author of the First Letter of Peter told his readers to be prepared to give an accounting for the hope that is in them to anyone who demands it (1 Peter 3:15). The hope and faith of Christians is fundamentally that the Easter and Ascension message. This central hope and faith is put clearly in Colossians 3:1-4, the second reading for Easter Sunday (all years). This reading stresses that telievers should look at the things that are in heaven, where Christ is sitting at God’s right hand, not on things that are on earth. The message is that the moral life of Christians is to be guided by the demands of belief in the risen Christ. The continuation of the text in Colossians spells this out. “Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry)”. Later the same exhortation for this new Christian life says: “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12), and much more.

Dialogue possibly revealing contrasting, even incompatible, positions. Dialogue with current culture, whether in the New Testament period or in our own day, may clearly show up positions contrasting or even incompatible with the central Christian message. We have a clear example in the life of Paul. At Athens he preached to Jews, and in the market place to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, but  without success. Some said: “What does this babbler (or: rag-picker) want to say”, and his reference to Jesus and the resurrection (in Greek Anastasis) were taken as foreign gods. When addressing the learned of Athens, the Areopagus, he seeks to exploit points of common interest with his audience, but at the mention of the resurrection and the resurrection of Christ he is politely dismissed (Acts 17:16-33). Dispirited, he departs for Corinth, where he is encouraged by the Holy Spirit to continue. In his letter to the Corinthians Paul makes clear that his first preaching to them was not in lofty words or human wisdom, but in plain language:  Jesus Christ and him crucified, so that their faith might not rest on human wisdom but on the power of God (1 Cor 2:1-5). The “rulers of this world” (that is the elite) did not understand such a Christian message (1 Corinthians 2:8). If stalemate is reached in some present-day dialogue, Christians may reflect on the basic religious standpoint of each side, and as required come to a deeper understanding of what our Christian “hope”, and heritage is.

Knowledge of the mystery of Christ and the Church through prayer and reflection. Whether in dialogue or otherwise, it iswell for us all to bear in mind that the Church is basically a mystery in the full sense of this word, not a “revealed truth that we cannot understand” but the medium of God’s saving work through Christ. It is not a political entity, but the body of Christ, in which God’s omnipotence is at work, purifying her constantly to enable her to be the sacrament of his salvation for the whole world.

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