Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mission of God's People - Chaper 2 - Part 2.2

Wright writes: "Indeed, we need to ask ourselves right up front: how well do you actually know the biblical story? If Jesus and Paul saw fit to repeatedly go over it with those who knew their Old Testament Scriptures inside out, how much more do we need to make sure we are familiar with the content of the Bible as a whole?"

We are in Chapter 2 of Mission of God's People which is entitled "People who know the story they are in." Wright is arguing for a thorough understanding of the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, or at least the story it tells, as important to the mission of God's people. That's not to say we all need be Bible scholars, we don't all  need to go to seminary or know Hebrew and Greek. Frankly, you can do all those things and still miss the story. Our big challenge with the story today, in our sound-bite culture, seems to be  our reductionist theology that Christianity is all about Jesus and me - personal salvation being key. It is after all my story but now Jesus fits my story. We may not say it in quiet that way but the the rarity of Biblical worldview amongst Christians demonstrates it clearly.

Q - How does that though challenge you? How would you push back against that idea?

We need to ask what has this self-centered Christianity really gotten us and how is  it impacting the world for Christ? Answering that question is beyond the scope of this single post but consider this recent headline (10/09/12) by the New York Time - Percentage of Protestant Americans Is in Steep Decline, Study Finds. For the first time in our history the total population of Protestants has slipped below a majority. According to this Pew survey, 1 in 5 Americans now consider themselves "Nones."The secularization of America tells us that people are buying a different story.

If Jesus and Paul put such great importance on knowing the story. might it be imperative that we understand it as well? Knowing the story was culturally relevant then but recapturing it is even more so today. In our consistently confused culture we need to be able to offer a clear alternative narrative. It's not sufficient to simply say "Jesus saves" and expect people to flock into churches to "find Jesus," as if he was ever lost. What people want, what they long for, is the genuine which is why Jesus had so much to say in opposition to the hypocritical. They want the authentic and not some imitation. In order to get there we need to reengage the story that Jesus and Paul understood, that Wright is bringing us to. But why aren't we there? Where did we go wrong?

Q- What are your thoughts? 

Today I just want to offer three observations:

First, most sensible people like Jesus, or at least the one our culture portrays.  He's cool, radical, loving, tender all wrapped up into an attractive icon, packaged for us by our modern  marketing, and deemed safe for children (that's why many non-religious parents drop their kids off for children's Sunday school .) After all, looks at those loving eyes, his tender manner, and he's holding a baby lamb. You've probably seen this picture but as Mr. Beaver points out in Chronicles of Narnia "he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you." We like the main character of the story but don't really know him.

Second, we make the story about us so we don't bother to understand it except as it applies to us. Stanley Hauerwas suggests that "Most Americans tell themselves the story that you should have no story except the story you chose when you had no story." Simply put, Hauerwas is saying that we want to author own story. And because we do, Christian "self-help"books, tape, seminars, conferences, therapists for both men and women, is big business as we try to live our own story instead of God's. The problem we encounter when we try to live our own story is that we live displayed lives and so need those "self-help" remedies to try to cope and attempt to live "the best life now" as we define it.

Third, in the other direction, as Wright points out, "The attitude of some is all you need is the Great Commission and the power of the Holy Spirit. Bible reading or biblical theology will only serve to delay you in the urgent task." It is all about what we do for Jesus that counts or it is all about how we love people that counts. Both are popular beliefs today. Both contain some truth as far as they go. But the Biblical evidence is that Jesus, Paul and the Apostles understood his story and it is what animated mission from the beginning. The story still animates much mission today but not nearly enough when you consider mission statistics (a topic for another day.) 

We must be "People who know the story they are in"and when we do we define our best life now according to that story. Could it be that  when the whole story becomes our whole lives we start to become the whole person we are created to be? Could that be why "Jesus and Paul saw fit repeatedly go over it with those who knew" the story they were in. Could the whole Bible story lead us to together with the whole Church, to live out the whole Gospel,for the transformation of the whole World? I don't know but I'm willing to live like it until we find out for living sent today. 

Q:  how well do you think you actually know the biblical story?

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