Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Mission of God's People - Chapter 3 - Part 3.3

Happy New Year! I'm looking forward to what the Lord will do with 2013! I recently wrote a 20 day prayer guide entitled "Live It! People who live His Story." to begin the New Year for my home church, Christ Fellowship, you can download here. 

So we’re to live as fully alive humans but how do we do that (see Part 3.2)? The fruit of the Spirit is a good starting place of what it might look like to be fully human but how do we live  that outs as our own? I don’t know about you but I still struggle with every one of the fruits regularly.

I certainly wouldn’t say I’m fruitless. I would sure hope not after 16 years as a Christ follower but that’s only by God’s grace. I do take solace in Paul’s confession of being bruised fruit (Romans 7:21-25) But I want to be fruitier and maybe that’s really it. Our desire for being a more fully alive human coupled with the knowledge of what that might look like as the image bearers of God multiplied by the power of the Spirit at work in us is the only way that will lead us to a fruit-filled life. Not that we ever become perfect fruit bearers but we can attain a more consistent fruitfulness as we understand more about who we are in Christ and what our Lord expects from us. To get there we need to understand who we are as humans and what we have been tasked to do.

Wright has taken us back to the beginning, back to Genesis 1, to understand something of our human responsibility, our original God given mandate 

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them;male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:27-28) 

It is necessary to understand our unique role in creation to live as fully human, especially as we have a propensity to turn away from those assignments, even as Christians. While God allowed us the free will to choose otherwise, he had a plan on how it was supposed to be. Wright tells us that there our two fundamental things about us that are clearly connected as being part of our fundamental nature as humans. First, that God made us in his image, and, second, God intended us to exercise dominion over creation. But as Wright points out: 

"It is not having dominion that is what constitutes the image of God, but rather that exercising dominion is what being made in God’s image enables and entitles us to do. We humans have a mission on earth because God had a purpose in putting us on it.”

There are three directives in the Genesis mandate we need to embrace. The Lord gives his newly created humans orders to “multiply and fill the earth,” to “subdue” it and to “rule” over it. Wright doesn’t deal with the first in this chapter but we need to understand the “multiply” in terms of God’s mission. Multiplication is not only for the propagation of the species but more importantly the advancing of the knowledge of God’s glory. It has always been God’s intention to fill the earth with the knowledge of who he is. God is motivated by his global glory so it would only make sense that he had it in mind at creation. Living that truth out well then takes expression in our mandate to “subdue” and “rule.” We could say it is our “prime directive”  (that is if we are a Star Trek fan). 

Wright does elaborate on the meaning of “subdue” and “rule.” He states here that these “are strong words, with a sense of imposing of will upon another. However, they are not terms that necessarily imply violence or abuse (though some critics of Christianity lay the blame for ecological disaster at the door of these two words and the freedom they allegedly give us to rape the environment – a charge that has been well refuted.)” But as Wright rightly points out… 
“human dominion over the rest of creation is to be an exercise of kingship that reflects God’s own Kingship. The image of God is not a license for arrogant abuse, but a pattern that commits us to humble reflection of the character of God. “ 
Is it safe to say that too often American Christians haven’t really thought about this subject, at best, or at worse contributed to the charge of the critics? Have we arrogantly assumed we didn’t need a well thought out position on creation care as part of our faithl? While, I don't find a compelling reason to buy into today's all too prevalent climate alarm-ism (although Wright seems to on this point - we can agree to disagree on minor points), we do need to treat God’s world well in the safekeeping we have been tasked with. It is a requirement of the mission of God’s people that we are to live the whole Gospel, as it is a part of the mandate God gave humans  - or “the rocks will cry out” (Luke 19:40). 

How would it reflect to our culture if Christians actually led in important ways in caring for the world God has gifted us with? Not as the most important part of our mission, there are priorities, but in a way that reflects what the prophet Micah understood when he said, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” That’s not just a spiritual call, or a call to a social Gospel, but as well a call to a holistic worldview that treats all of God’s glorious creation as God desires. 

This may be best captured in the ancient Hebrew concept of “shalom” (more on this in future posts) that treats all things as sacred - from God - and they are, right (Psalm 24:1, 1 Cor 10:26)?. Space here today won’t allow me to elaborate but I believe a “shalom” based theology, anthropology and missiology may well be the answer to being a fully alive human. Living a shalom lifestyle would help us to recalibrate our lives around “beholding” God in all things he has made, and that includes humankind (2 Cor 5:16). King David, a man after God’s own heart, understood that “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.“ 

It’s easy to stand on a mountaintop beholding the beauty of God's creation, with the ruined places of our world out of view, and “declare our God reigns. It’s easy to live with cultural blinders and not see the broken places of our world, except perhaps through our TV screen. It’s even easy to contribute, if even unaware, to the structural imbalances and injustices that mankind perpetuates against creation and the image of God. But if the glory of God is man fully alive how do we respond to our polluted global cities, urban blight, or overcrowded slums? How should we be moved by famine ravaged regions, the inequalities of healthcare access, the lack of clean drinking water? To name but a few areas of our "ruined streets." 

Can we declare “our God reigns” and then not seek the restoration of those broken places for his glory? Should we not bring humble kingship over those “ruined” places seeking to subdue and rule in accordance with God’s “very good” plan? Why is it that so few Christians actually live in accordance with our mandate? Could it be we have some wrong ideas we need to rethink? 

Closer to home, what excesses do we need to address in our own lives that contribute to the neglect and contamination of our world? Do we even give such ideas room for thought in how we live our lives? It wasn't that many weeks ago that so many were decrying the end of the Twinkie. That should tell us something about what we think is important, no? I confess I have only recently started to think more healthy and make efforts to live that out

When Jesus tells us to go and make disciples of all nation, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey everything he had commanded, I don’t think he meant for us to pick and choose what parts he wanted us to obey. The Great Commission is great because it is “all” encompassing. We should not separate care for the “all things created” in him and for him (Colossians 1:16) from our mission as God’s people. If we are concerned with the whole Gospel, with being fruitful Christ followers, I have become convinced this too is part of living sent today. 

Other links to consider:

Q – How might subduing and ruling take practical expression in your life?

No comments:

Post a Comment