Commentary: Christian Responsibility
As far back as I can remember my Mom and Dad were engaged in public life, taking their civic responsibilities seriously. I can still hear my Mother, who came from a community cloaked with injustice, calling on people to step out and speak up. At the same time, our family was active in the Roman Catholic Church. As a child, I did not connect our faith with public responsibilities, but I suspect that my parents did. Time passed and generations evolved; however, those teachings remain imbedded in values that drive my belief that people of faith must be part of social engagement dedicated to the common good. As I grew into adulthood, it became clearer that my faith was inextricably linked to my passion for justice and equality.
After years of social activism in the community, I needed to add my voice to the masses, fearfully I might add. So, when I joined the United Church of Church of Christ nearly 35 years ago and I learned that the Bible was the very basis for our prophetic witness. It was as a laywoman in the pews of my local church that I learned to shout out with courage. It was in the pews that I have heard the scriptures read claiming that God is a God of justice. It became vividly clear to me that every single person’s dignity must be respected and restored.
A question often arises – what business does the church have in this anyway? As Christians, we have the responsibility to influence our social culture rather than being a product of it. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have no choice but to take His message of love, justice, hope, and reconciliation inside and outside of our churches far beyond Sunday morning. The church is the place where God’s justice, God’s peace, and God’s powerful and unconditional love should be made markedly evident through our actions. The church, indeed, has some business in all of this.
Since accepting the call ten years ago to serve as Executive Minister of Justice and Witness Ministries, I have been surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses; among them are staff colleagues who respond to the complex demands of social justice ministries every day. My life has been enriched by encuentros (encounters) with modern day disciples from across the whole church. The torches of justice are indeed burning brightly throughout the United Church of Christ.
I will retire from this position on September 30. As I write this last Witness for Justice, I am reminded that we can never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit to renew and recast our lives when we least expect it. My faith and community life are far more inter-connected for me today than ever before. Thank you Mom and Dad and the many giants of the faith for all you’ve taught me along the way. I promise to do my best to model your values that weave my Christian teachings into everyday life.
It is impossible to express in words how deeply grateful I am for the immeasurable blessing to serve God through our beloved United Church of Christ.
M. Linda Jaramillo is a National Officer of the United Church of Christ.