As World Social Justice Day is observerved on Wednesday February 20th, it is timely to ask: How do we connect our faith with our actions? Chris Elkington shares his thoughts on 'social holiness' below:
"How can we put our personal holiness into action?
Early last year I received an invitation to attend the Salvation Army’s inaugural International College for Soldiers and represent the Australia Southern Territory in London. I was one of 25 delegates between the ages of 18-30 years, with representatives from each of the five Army zones all around the world. The ICS held at the Cedars and lasted for two weeks. It had three distinct mission intentions (1) Knowing: Biblical, theological and historical knowledge of The Salvation Army, (2) Being: Focusing on Personal Holiness, putting into practice spiritual disciplines and (3) Doing: Implementing knowledge of social holiness in a practical way. Although I was very excited about being given the opportunity to meet with Army leaders including General Linda Bond as well as being able to visit the birth place of the Army in London’s East End I knew that God was going to challenge me deeper in my faith as well as my covenant to him as a soldier in The Salvation Army.
During the second week of the College our focus was mostly on Social Holiness- ‘Just Holiness’ with guest lecturer Major Hannelise Tvedt (Assistant Programme Secretary United Kingdom Territory). Major Tvedt spoke of the importance of holiness as being social- putting our personal holiness (Christlikeness) into action. Acts 1:8 reminds us “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (NLT) Holiness oozes out of us. When our hearts are totally committed to Christ we become filled and led by the transformational power of the Holy Spirit. This allows us to be completely open to God and his saving work in our lives and the lives of others. We have as humans the capacity to be changed by God and become holy.
Catherine Booth has been quoted as saying that you can’t save souls with a long pole. Social Holiness involves getting ourselves into places where no one else dares to go, being strong enough to be in the world but not of the world and game enough to share the message of Jesus. Social Holiness means moving beyond the four walls of buildings, social centre, halls and fortresses and being ready to fight for those who have no voice, those who are hungry, those who hurting and those who need the love of Jesus. We too had the opportunity to express this in a practical way and were sent out in small teams across the streets of London to meet with people in Corps and Social Centres. Our purpose was to evangelise, but to understand that in all people there is an image of God and that we need to identify God in them.
The Salvation Army with its military like structure was raised as a dynamic Army of love that reaches out to the ‘whosoever’. It is a holiness movement, motivated to meet the needs of others in a practical, inclusive and non-confrontational way without discrimination. The act of ‘just holiness’ is being able to see the needs of others, putting them first without thinking an agenda. It’s easy to become critical of others, to judge, to become self-centred and to comment on those who may seem different. Although I too at times can find myself becoming comfortable with the four walls of church I am reminded that through our personal holiness (being made like Christ) I must also be demonstrating this through the act of social holiness- my lifestyle wholly reflecting Christ in the world.
Social Holiness reminds me that I need to be in community with others as God would want me to be. Being aware and inclusive of others differences, seeking to meet with people personally and on their level. I love fact that in the early days of the Salvation Army the pioneers seemed to instantly speak the language and culture of the people of the time. Whilst their innovation and outward methods of evangelism produced much success it was also by the inward working of the Holy Spirit, moving within the hearts of those they were witnessing to that allowed them to overflow with love and compassion. Every time I think of Social Holiness I become excited about the endless possibilities that can happen when our hearts are open to Christ’s leading and when we are fully engaged in his work. For I know that is by God’s strength that he will do the saving work through the inner working of the Holy Spirit on our lives. As soldiers of Salvation I am reminder of the words of General Bond during her Sunday morning address at the ICS “We must be soldiers, disciplined, spirit filled, daring not confrontational…on the march, not on the parade square”. "
About Chris: Chris Elkington is the Children Pastor at the Box Hill Corps where he changes the world one puppet show at a time. He is qualified school teacher and is studying a Master of Educational Leadership. Chris has a passion for children’s ministries and has participated in camps and programs in outback Australia, New Zealand and Asia.