Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Mission of God's People - People Who Care for Creation - Chapter 3 Part 3.1

When last we left off we had completed Chapter 2 and asked the question: "How do we make the Mission of God’s People our story?" That is a vital question to answer if we are going to live sent today. To begin to answer that question Wright takes us back to the beginning, back to the creation story. 

The title of Chapter 3 - People Who Care For Creation - may leave some perplexed with the direction that Wright is going.  Creation Care is not what the Gospel is about, right? As long as we have Jesus and we recognize him as our Lord and Savior we're good with God. Isn't that tops on the list for us Christians? When we answer "yes" then we can basically live any way we want, right? Of course, we would never say it that way and most Christian do try to live a moral life, but with Christmas just completed we are reminded again of what we American Christians find most important. And once again we can determine that is commericalism and consumerism, buying things for one another we don't need and spending more than must should, all in an attempt to feel good about the Holiday's. Sorry but this year Americans will spend over $500 billion on Christmas Shopping but give less than $300 billion to charity for the year. Is that really the reason for the season?

To the previous two "c's" I'll add cooking. I spent about 15 hours preparing a meal for the family that was consumed in less than 30 minutes. Due to my labors I was too worn out to remember to lead the family in giving thanks for our bountiful feast. We can also add complaining. My teenage daughter upset because she was not getting what she wanted for Christmas, was complaining that her cousin would flaunt all that she received. Is that really what Christmas is all about?  Hey but we're all saved, right? The commercialist, the consumerist, the complainer and the cook all know Jesus so "it's all good."  But is that really how we want to define our Christianity? We can too quickly put other things before our King even as we proclaim he is Lord. Christmas brings this into sharper focus than any other time of year.

Part of the problem we have today, the reason for our misaligned affections, is how we read the Bible. Too often we read the Bible through a "what's in it for me?" lens instead of a "what does God want of me?" honest perspectives. So the Christmas story, and more so our Christian life, becomes a what's in it for me story, about my personal salvation, my personal relationship with Jesus. The mission of God's people then becomes only about "getting people saved" so they can know his salvation and have this relationship too. While that is certainly of paramount Biblical importance, a gateway for living sent, when not properly understood in relation to the whole Gospel, it has tended to create a self-focused, self-absorbed people who miss the whole Bible story.

We end up with a narrowly defined soteriology, with little understanding of God's gift of grace, and may even think it's about the unholy trinity of "me, myself and I." Reemember that Rick Warren began his best selling book the "Purpose Driven life" with these words - "It's not about you." That was quite an assault on American Christianity where we can focus so heavily on the New Testament story, reading it for our personal benefit, that we miss how the Bible begins and ends, missing what God is in fact calling his people to. Wright begins Chapter 3 with the observation that, " Some people have a hard time connecting their understanding of Christian mission to the Old Testament at all, let alone starting in Genesis." But how do we develop a whole Gospel missiology if we don't take the whole Bible into account? Wright notes that, The Bible begins and ends with creation" (Genesis 1:1, Rev 21:1) and tells us that...

"The trouble is some Christians seem to have Bible that begins in Genesis 3 and end at Revelation 20. They know all about sin from the story of the Fall and they know God has solved the sin problem through Christ, and that they will be safe on the great day of Judgment. The story for them is no more than a backdrop for the story of salvation, and the Bible's grand climax speaks to them only of going to heaven when they die (even though the last chapters of the Bible say nothing about us going anywhere, but eagerly anticipate God's coming here."
Just as Jesus birth is frequently a only backdrop of our Christmas celebration, missing the real "reason for the season,"  our focus on our sin problem and solving that often misses the grand and glorious story that the Bible is in fact communicating to us. That's why we need to start in Genesis 1 with the idea of caring for what God created. Wright warns, "a Bible stripped of its beginning and ending will produce a concept of mission that is distorted... We will imagine that God's only concern and therefore our too, is to save people from sin and judgment...But it's not the whole story of the Bible, and it should not be the whole story of our mission." Rather...

"the Bible's story is that the God who created the universe, only to see it ravaged by evil and sin, has committed himself to the total redemption and restoration of the whole creation, has accomplished it in advance through the cross and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, and will bring it to glorious completion in the new is astonishing, and very sad, that it is such an insignificant, virtually nonexistent place in mission theology and practice of so many Christians who like to claim that they are "biblical" in all things."
Thinking about creation sets the stage for where Wright takes us next as he expounds on the mandate that God gave mankind in Genesis 1 and 2. The idea of being people who care for creation may get some push back today, especially given the political debate that typically surrounds issues of planetary climate (for the record I am opposed to most thinking that purports to support anthropogenic global warming as a fact but that's not what we are going to talk about). While Biblical creation care may be foreign to most these ideas weren't foreign to the prophet Isaiah when he declared, "Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings" (Isaiah 58:12). Then neither should they be for us in living sent today. Shalom.

Q - When you hear the words Creation Care what comes to mind?

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