In my last blog, I introduced a Hebrew word, tsaddiqim, which means “righteous.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines righteous as “meeting the standards of what is right and just, morally right.” How do Christians live as tsaddiqim? It starts with understanding the gospel.
Dr. Amy L. Sherman, Senior Fellow and Director at the Sagamore Institute’s Center on Faith in Communities, authored Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 2011, pages 82-85). In Chapter 4 (How the Gospel of the Kingdom Nurtures the Tsaddiqim), she gives “three arenas crucial to living as the tsaddiqim: sanctification, evangelism, and mission.”
Sanctification is “the process or result of God’s continuing work in Christian believers through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Westminister Dictionary of Theological Terms) When a person accepts Christ through faith, sanctification begins and continues for the rest of his or her life. John Wesley believed that sanctification leads Christians to perfection, although few have achieved it. “Sanctification is a matter of conforming not only to the character of Christ, but also to his passions and identity.” Jesus was sent on a mission and sanctification happens when we follow Christ in mission. “We are all sent ones.” Our work is part of our sending since we go out into our secular communities. “Sanctification means following Jesus as he sends us into every place and every societal sphere, giving ourselves to the work of the restoration of all things.”
Evangelism is the sharing of the gospel. When I was in seminary, many of my fellow students did not feel comfortable with evangelism because it brought visions of street ministers yelling at pedestrians. The sharing of the gospel applies to the faithful and seekers. “Dietrich Bonhoeffer [German theologian] put it this way: ‘It is not that God is the spectator and sharer of our present life, howsoever important that is, but rather that we are the reverent listeners and participants in God’s action in the sacred story, the history of the Christ on the earth. And only so far as we are there, is God with us today also.” The gospel is about the coming kingdom and we share it through our actions in the world.
Mission is being sent. In chapter 7 of my book, Trading with God, I stress the importance of being externally focused. The Church is far more than our local church: it is the entire community. Christians are called to join the Holy Spirit where it is at work in our community. This begins with fighting injustice and evil in our unredeemed world. The Bible “paints a very consistent picture of God acting vigorously on behalf of the poor, the orphan, the widow and the stranger. He regularly exhibits a special concern for them. Our mission work should too.”
These three arenas of tsaddiqim (sanctification, evangelism, and mission) are all actions for Christians to perform during their daily working lives. Sanctification restores us and our community. Evangelism externally proclaims the gospel in words and deeds. Mission follows the Holy Spirit, working for justice against evil. Then, “when it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices.” Proverbs 11:10 (NRSV)