Political engagement, trust in God's sovereignty urged
LOUISVILLE, KY (BP) – Jesus is the "ultimate" refugee and immigrant, and as a result the church has a responsibility to love and care for strangers in their land, said Georgia pastor and former Southern Baptist Convention president Bryant Wright during an Oct. 11 chapel message during Heritage Week at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "The role of government is different. The role of government includes a protection of the citizens, but our role in the church is to love our neighbor," said Wright, who received his M.Div. from Southern Seminary in 1979. "And we are called to do that in any situation in life as Jesus teaches us to do so."
Wright's sermon, "Refugees and Immigrants," focused on the biblical role of the church to serve and love those considered foreigners to America. Wright's main text, Matthew 2:13-15, explains that Jesus, led by his parents, were refugees who fled to Egypt. Addressing the topic of refugees and immigrants specifically, Wright encouraged Christian citizens to "be engaged in the political process" in order to draft reforms to solve the immigration issue "in the most humane manner that is good for citizens in our land and is good for all." Wright, who pastors Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., reminded students of the privilege to "be part of a convention that is really in the forefront of leading the way and making a statement and testimony to the world" in regard to the treatment of immigrants. He urged students to review the SBC immigration resolution passed at the annual meeting in 2011.
According to the SBC website, sbc.net, the resolution recognized the government's responsibility of border security, requested public officials to offer a "a just and compassionate path to legal status … for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country," and a call to Southern Baptist churches to "proclaim Christ and minister in his spirit to everyone, regardless of their 'immigration status.'" Wright has served the convention in the roles of SBC president (2010-12), president of the SBC Pastors' Conference (2006), chairman of the Committee on Committees of the SBC (2003), and on several boards including the board of trustees for GuideStone Financial Resources (2009-2017).
Because of the refugee crisis and immigration, Christians are able to share the Gospel with people who do not usually have access to hearing it. "One thing for sure, we have an opportunity in sharing the good news of the Gospel of Christ with refugees and immigrants" Wright said. "It is news that helps them to identify with this Jesus, who knows what it's like to be a refugee." "But that's not all," Wright noted. "… You see, Jesus is the ultimate example of an immigrant. But what is so unique about Jesus? He didn't leave His throne in heaven for a better life on earth, He left His throne in heaven because He loves you and me, sinners unworthy of his love, and gave His life for us. If the ultimate immigrant, Jesus Christ, has done that for you and me, can't we reach out to the strangers and aliens of our land and show them the love of Christ? And share with them the Gospel, the good news, when they've experienced so much bad news."
At a special Heritage Week service Oct. 12 in Broadus Chapel on the seminary's Louisville, Ky., campus, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, preached about the resolute faith Christians should have for God's promises in a fallen world. Despite a clash of worldviews that characterizes the church's interaction with secular culture, believers can have confidence that God's sovereign purposes will be fulfilled in the end, Mohler said. "Scripture pervasively and consistently tells us that God is in control and nothing is outside His control," Mohler said. "If there is anything -- a single atom or molecule in the universe -- that appears to be out of His control, we're not just in trouble, we're doomed. But He is in absolute sovereign control, and He is exercising His power -- He is King and Lord over all, and He will bring all things to pass according to his will."
Preaching on Ecclesiastes 9:11-18, Mohler said believers' experience in a fallen world makes it seem like God will not triumph. The wicked prosper, the wise are forgotten, and everybody dies, Mohler said, indicating that sin and its consequences will have the final say. God's absolute sovereignty speaks a truer word, He said, and death will not have victory. "If God is God, and if He has acted in Christ to save sinners, and if He is the sovereign ruler of the entire universe, and if He is going to bring all history to a climactic conclusion according to His perfect judgment, then 'if God be for us, who can be against us?'" Mohler said, referencing Paul's famous testimony of God's sovereignty despite suffering in Romans 8. "If God is God, then we can go to the cemetery and understand that the grave does not have the last word."
In the Oct. 13 service in Alumni Memorial Chapel, SBTS trustee Clint Pressley said believers can hold onto the strength of Jesus Christ in times of trouble. The Lord Jesus knows and sympathizes with everything Christians experience in their lives, said Pressley, who is senior pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. "Isn't that what the Psalm promises? That He knows our frame and that He remembers that we are dust," he said. Using as his text Acts 23, when Paul is held before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem and rejected, Pressley said believers often share Paul's darkest moments in ministry. Within those difficult circumstances, Christians can experience the "staying power" and strength of Christ in their lives.
"In Christ, there is strength," he said. "You find your identity, you find your ministry, you find your affections, and you find your ambition bound up in Christ."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Story submitted by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Communications Office.