by Wyatt Robinson
January 27, 2022
Over the last few months, I’ve been reflecting on how the Mission of the United Methodist Church, “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” connects to our works of justice here at Church and Society. Reflecting on my experience growing up in the United Methodist Church, I have heard our Mission cited regularly, as it should be; however, I have realized that it’s most often referenced in our acts of charity and service. I’ve always tended to focus on the action-oriented part of our Mission, “to make disciples.” I have begun to wonder more about the implications of the second half of our Mission, “the transformation of the world,” and how that changes our perception of the way we should live out our faith in our social lives. Is this “transformation” just an end goal we are striving toward or is it a simultaneous action we are called to engage in?
As I reflected on this question, I was reminded of two very similar quotes, one from Frederick Buechner and the other from Martin Luther King Jr. Buechner says in his book Whistling in the Dark, that “peace is not the absence of struggle, but the presence of love.” Buechner wrote this in contrast to MLK’s famous line from his book Stride Toward Freedom, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.“ These two similar quotes differ in very important ways. It raises the question in my mind, what leads to peace? Is it the presence of love or justice?
I believe that the Mission of the United Methodist Church testifies that we must have both the presence of love and justice, not one or the other, in order to truly experience peace. We are called to “make disciples of Jesus Christ,” and do so by sharing the love and grace of God abundantly with everyone we meet, ushering in the presence of love in the midst of struggle. We are also called to engage in “the transformation of the world,” through engaging in the struggle toward justice in our society. “The transformation of the world” is not just a variable of our Mission that is outside of our control, it is a simultaneous calling to meet the many great injustices we see in our world today with acts of justice. The Mission of our United Methodist Church calls us to live out our callings through acts of love and justice simultaneously in order to fulfill it.