Individual Duties & Responsibilities
Duties are based on relationships. “Love your neighbor” is a duty we have, not because we are Christians, but because we are “neighbors” (Luke 10.27,29,36 — “Which…proved to be a neighbor?”). All men, whether believers or unbelievers, sustain this “neighbor” relationship and therefore have this duty.
Only those who sustain a relationship to a wife have the duty to “love your wife” (Ephesians 5.25 — literally, “men love your women”). Which one? The one you sustain a relationship to as a husband. Christians, though they are Christians, who sustain no relationship to a wife do not have this duty.
Citizens are to “be in subjection to the governing authorities” (Romans 13.1). Which one — U.S. or Canada? The one to whom they sustain the relationship to as citizens. The relationship begets and circumscribes the duty.
Christians, because they sustain a relationship to Christ, partake of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 10.16-17). They may happen to be neighbors, parents, and citizens, but that is not why they have this duty. It is because they are “in Christ.” So also with singing in the name of Christ (Ephesians 5.19-20), praying through Christ (1 Timothy 2.5), growing in the knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3.18), and giving to have fellowship in the gospel of Christ and to relieve those who are saints in Christ (Philippians 1.5; 4.15; 2 Corinthians 8.4-5).
As individual duties are based on relationships, so are the organizations these individuals form. As the relationship begets and circumscribes the individual’s duty, so with the organizations these individuals formed based on these relationships.
A group of neighbors may form an organization to provide for duties that arise out of that relationship, e.g., the Cancer Society. While Christians may be part of this organization, so may atheists. The organization grows out of the “neighbor” relationship, and is composed of people who — whether Christians, Jews, or atheists — are members of the organization because they are “neighbors,” and it is designed to provide for duties that grow out of that relationship.
A group of citizens may form an organization to provide for duties related to their government, e.g., the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. While Christians may be members of that organization, the organization does not grow out of their relationship to Christ but their relationship to the government. One would not expect that organization to use its funds to preach the gospel of Christ, but that would not mean the individuals in that organization were opposed to gospel preaching. That duty is based on a different relationship.
Now, if Christians band together to form a group to provide for responsibilities they share — not because they are citizens, parents, or neighbors, but because they are “in Christ” — the New Testament calls that a church “of Christ.” I would no more expect it be engaged in cancer research or political activism that I would the Cancer Society or the Democratic Party to preach the gospel. It would be foolish to accuse the individuals who compose such a group as unloving toward those who have cancer or anti-government just because none of the group funds and activities further cancer research or a political agenda.
If this reasoning is correct, it should be supported by the historical facts of what churches under apostolic direction did and were told to do. Not one statement, example, or implication can be cited where churches of Christ in the New Testament engaged in any activities but those “in Christ” — preaching the gospel of Christ, acts of edification in Christ, and benevolence to those in Christ (needy saints).
Duties individuals have are based on relationships they sustain, and the organizations they formed are designed to provide for the peculiar duties growing out of these respective relationships. This helps us to understand why a church “of Christ” exists and to understand its unique “in Christ” activities.
Food For Thought
- Hospitality: “Treating someone like they belong, before they belong, until they belong…”
- It has been said that more people praise the Bible than read the Bible, and more people read the Bible than believe the Bible, and more people believe the Bible than understand the Bible, and more people understand the Bible than obey the Bible.
- One of the hardest things you will ever have to do is grieve the loss of a person who is still alive.
- Where one goes hereafter depends largely on what one goes after here.
- He that knows little often repeats it.
- He who can live contented with little possesses much.
- Religion is no different from other things. The less you invest in it, the poorer the quality of it.
- A teacher cannot teach without studying his pupil any more than a farmer can farm without studying his field.
- The mind is no more nourished by memorizing words alone than the body is nourished by chewing a bill of fare.
- Knowledge without wisdom is as dangerous as a car with neither steering nor bakes.