The Church In The South And Social Issues Matthew 5:23–24 -- By: Leroy Fitts

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 02:1 (Fall 1984)
Article: The Church In The South And Social Issues Matthew 5:23–24
Author: Leroy Fitts

The Church In The South And Social Issues
Matthew 5:23–24

Leroy Fitts

Pastor, First Baptist Church, Baltimore, Maryland

The Bible is again opened in the region of our country known affectionately as “the Bible Belt.” This is not to suggest that people ever stopped reading the Bible in the South. But the Civil Rights Revolution and other great social issues have urged upon all southern Christians the need to take a “fresh” look at this grand old Book to discover where Christ is seeking to direct us in the wilderness of race relations in particular and other social issues such as the “new morality,” human rights, nuclear proliferation, abortion, and euthanasia. These issues tend to cause us to become disturbed and bewildered. We recognize that a strange state of affairs exists in our nation and world community. Southern Christians feel an uneasiness while the Holy Spirit moves “upon the face of the waters” of our tangled world.

All of us who have deep roots in the South with its rich traditions are challenged to return spiritually to the “Mount” and listen with utter seriousness and openness to the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon is perhaps the end of theology for the church, the very essence of Christianity. To be sure, it is the core of the social ethics for the church. Within the Sermon on the Mount, there is a “word from the Lord” with sufficient potency to guide us through the wilderness of our great social issues.

Let us southern Christians take a spiritual pilgrimage back to that old “Mount” to receive some special and urgent instruction from our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that it is He who is calling the church in the South back to the “Mount” near Capernaum. His voice is saying to the church that she has to repeat her previous lesson. She failed the grade! There is no chance even for social promotion. There is a terrible expanse between the message of the church and her social behavior.

I should like to suggest that the greatest evidence of such social failure is the persistence of the “Segregated Sabbath.” For some strange reason the church in the South still remains our most segregated institution. It is most peculiar that this great Christian institution in our beloved South remains in such pernicious tension with the authentic spirit of the Christian witness. How can we face the challenge of the other social issues while black and white Christians are separated racially? How can a divided church witness effectively to a tangled world? How can we win the world for Christ when we have not won our brothers and sisters near at hand? More crucially, how can our Lord Jesus Christ return triumphantly for His church while we are still spotted and wrinkled by racial ...

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