by Christopher Harbin

Revolutionary Gospel
Christopher B. Harbin
Isaiah 61:1-11

We have become used to the gospel as a standard aspect of our society and culture. We consider it part of the establishment and structure of the land. We have come to believe that being a Christian is equivalent to being a good citizen, to the point that we consider both two sides of the same coin. We want to consider Christianity and citizenship as though they were dependent one upon the other. We fail to recognize, however, that this had rarely been the case, if ever. Throughout our history as Baptists, more often than not, we have had a prophetic role to play in regard to society, government, and community, often at odds with the power structures and social norms around us. Have we lost sight of the revolutionary aspects of the gospel message?

My first church in Virginia was a well-established, historic church. As I recall, it was the second Baptist church established in the area, back in 1772, when it was essentially illegal for a Baptist church to exist in Virginia. Rocks Baptist was established on the banks of Suanee Creek, on the stagecoach road from Richmond to the wilds of the Virginia frontier. At the time, a Baptist minister could not be legally ordained to preach, for that was a right limited to the Episcopal Church. Failing to baptize a child in the Episcopal Church was worthy of a fine of 2,000 pounds of tobacco. Baptists in 1772 stood on the banks of the Suanee Creek, a stone's throw from the stagecoach road, baptizing new members in the sight of any who happened to travel by. They understood that their faith was at odds with the rules established by the commonwealth, at odds with the power structure of the Episcopal Church in cooperation with the local government. They understood that their faith called them to take a stand for the gospel, even if in defiance of the status quo and the political structures under which they lived.

1772 was four years before the Declaration of Indepen ...

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