One thing that characterized the earliest Church was its unwavering stance on moral issues. These issues always drew a sharp line in the sand between the saved and the unsaved, between the Christian and the Pagan, between the Church and the rest of the Roman world.
The Church’s Catechesis was imbued with detailed lists of moral expectations. These are rooted in deep reflection on Holy Scripture. Things unique to even Greco-Roman moral depravity were specifically named: pedophilia, exposure of infants (usually girls) to the elements, and abortion. A reading of the earliest Christian baptismal catechisms are eye-opening. (See Didache 1.1–6.4; See also the Epistle of Barnabas 18–21) These expectations served as a test, a line of demarcation testing the hearts and minds of Christians. This required the Church to apply Church discipline, at times rigorously. And this is precisely what gives the Church its teeth—its prophetic role in the world.
Adaptation and the Loss of Christian Witness
What is adaptation? Well, it is very much what it sounds like. In the realm of preaching the Gospel, adaptation is the adaptation of the message to the wants, desires, or preferences of the audience. Mainline Protestantism has been doing this for well over a century here in the US.
The problem with adaptation is that when a church or religious group does this, they lose their identity. Like we noted above of the early Church’s moral stand, this was what made her conspicuous and even at times controversial in the world. It is not an easy position. But without an identity founded on the bedrock of God’s truth, the Holy Scriptures, Christian identity died.
Besides this, the world does not respect it. Deep down, those who are not Christians may not always like what the Church stands for, but they have to respect its stand for it. When the Church reformats Christianity to look like what it originally stood against, it is hard to respect it.
Serving God by Serving the World
The Church’s posture is “whosoever will.” We will not chase, coerce, nor should we ever hurt or shame those who live outside the Church or God’s moral standards. We are all the same; both redeemed and unredeemed are ultimately sinners in need of grace.
Nevertheless, those who reject the Gospel and God’s moral standards do so to their own peril. For eternal life is for those as Paul says, “who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;” (Rom. 2:7) The job of the Church is to lovingly and non-judgmentally share the hope of God’s love and bring healing to those outside of the Church. We share God’s love and grace to broken people just like ourselves. The beautiful people outside the Church are not our opponents or enemies; they are our ministry and calling—those we are called to love and serve with humility and grace.