Who Speaks and Acts for Christ? CT Top Stories, Part 4

While I’m not certain that this is a case of saving the best for last, I am concluding this brief series on the top ten stories of 2010 with the #1 entry, as chosen by the editors of Christianity Today. On the surface, it seems an odd choice; but what it highlights is an issue this blog has touched on several times from a variety of angles.

The story comes from the beginning of 2010, when the impoverished nation of Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake. The event itself made many lists of the top news stories for the year, but that was not the interest CT had in its citing of the disaster. Rather, it was the manner in which aid was offered to the survivors that claimed the attention of the editors. Remembering that their interest is in the impact the stories have for evangelical faith, witness, and mission, we are led to consider the confusion over the children identified as orphans and scheduled to be adopted by families in the U. S. Reasons for the confusion are manifold, beginning with the spotty and inconsistent laws of Haiti and ending with well meaning but not necessarily well considered intervention of private citizens in the United States.

Though it may not be the direction of the story intended by the CT editors, the question of authority is raised by this chain of events. The well meaning, probably loving people who initiated the journey to Haiti thought they had done what was necessary to rescue some orphaned children from a lifetime (probably a short one at that) of poverty. When further investigation revealed some serious questions about the true status of some of the children, things got a bit sticky. Questions began to surface; and some others have been raised since that time which deserve serious consideration. Here are a few of them.

How do we, as Christians, move from an inner compulsion to an action that involves international travel and administrative procedures? How does the Holy Spirit lead people to acts of compassion and/or witness? Is such leading ever open to the discernment of other Christians? If so, by whom specifically–one’s home fellowship group, pastor(s), an entire congregation or denomination? Especially when so much is at stake, should we not be aware that we can either misread or misinterpret the promptings of the Spirit? The question which connects this incident to prior blog posts is the one of authority. Who has the authority to act in the name of Christ? Is it anyone who claims to have a revelation? Is it only church leadership? Surely there is something between these two poles—but what relationship might exist between them? We cannot forget that all of Christianity is implicated in the actions that anyone takes in the “name of Christ.”

What do you think about following the Spirit’s leading and recognizing any church authority? To me, that is the enduring issue behind what might actually be a top story, inasmuch as it causes us to revisit some of our easy assumptions.