Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Conversation with "Friend B"


I went to 2 Corinthians 5 and read again. I have a question or thought or combination. I see at the end of the chapter that the language specifically speaks to people, human-spiritual beings who are in need of reconciliation to God. Paul writes of seeing people no longer according to the flesh, but as they are spiritually; i.e. regenerate or unregenerate. He speaks of reconciling the world in a context that defines world as people. So, I would like to understand how this particular passage speaks to reconciliation of the broader world, to engaging in redemptive activity within the broader culture, in engaging people's material, social and justice needs.

I could give my own answer to my question, to the effect that these activities are picturing the redemption from spiritual darkness that must happen in each human and that they are simple integration of redemptive activity into all of like, not just the spritual compartment. This makes sense. It is in harmony with the ideas of living an integrated life as a believer. So I can see its logical extension from 2 Corinthians 5, but am not satisfied that logical extension is the same as explicit mission. This seems an important point to me because, as I understand our conversation, these material and spiritual and justice, etc. works are becoming woven into your understanding of mission, call, vocation. They are being woven into my thinking too because they seem so true. But are there other scripture passages? I'm also interested how you see Christ modeling these things in the gospels. Again, I might answer my own question, but I'm interested in the dialogue with you.

All is well in [(another city)- this brother is away from Lincoln for the summer]. A fabulous experience.

I love you, brother,

"Friend B"

Here was my response: 

Hey "Friend B,"

I can’t remember if you were in class when we read this particular blogpost of mine: Meaningful Ministry.

Of course when we read 2 Cor. 5 on purely grammatico-historical grounds, it is difficult to see the broader context around these verses, but you remember that Michael Williams defines three key interpretative principles: 1) the grammatico-historical method; 2) the analogy of Scripture (comparing Scripture to Scripture) and 3) the sensus plenior, the sense in which Scripture finds fulfillment in Christ and is brought fuller meaning as a result.

The blogpost gets at this, but we do certainly see human beings as pre-eminent in creation- the Lion is the greatest in the cat Kingdom, but at the end of the day he is still a cat.  Humans are the greatest in the creaturely Kingdom, but at the end of the day, we are still creatures.  Romans 8:19-21 reminds us that, as all of creation fell with Adam, so all of creation stands to be liberated with Christ and His children, indeed that there is a solidarity the Sons of God have with both: 1) the groaning of creation as well as 2) the hope of its restoration.  Of course, the creation awaits the redemption of the Sons of God as we are pre-eminent creatures- God didn’t become a tree or a giraffe but He became man.  Now in Christ, we are being renewed after the image of Christ the 2nd Adam- so the hope of creation is found in God’s people once again cultivating the earth and fulfilling the cultural mandate in Gen. 1:28- indeed the Great Commission is an extension of the Cultural Mandate as we are now needing to “teach disciples all that Christ has taught,” the One who is the fulfillment of all that was written in the Law, Psalms and Prophets.

2 Cor. 5:17 reminds us that the hope of reconciliation is not an isolated hope, but one that shares in that of THE New Creation.  Col. 1:16-20 sets Christ’s ministry of reconciliation as being comprehensive enough to cover “all things whether in heaven or on earth.”  Yes, the narrow lens of 2 Cor. 5 is that people need to be restored to God; however, the question naturally follows, restored to do what?  Answer: to live as complete image-bearers of God who are being built up once again to be what they were always meant to be as those who take dominion, i.e. steward their gifts for the King’s Reign to spread throughout the earth.

Regarding the Gospels, how often does Jesus talk about the Kingdom of God being like... and then use a parable of a landowner or workers or a field ripe for harvest or a vineyard- of course they are “parables,” but what is the analog here to how we understand things to actually be in the Kingdom?  Wasn’t the first thing Noah did upon leaving the Ark into a New Creation, having experienced the saving mercy of God, was plant a vineyard?  I’ve heard it said of Martin Luther that he said if the world was going to end tomorrow, he would plant a tree.  

In John 5:17, Jesus said that His Father was always at work and He too is working.  Of course, when Jesus spoke these things, He was speaking about the completion of His task as the 2nd Adam to once again bring the hope of restoration to His Beloved (Matt. 1:21) but that such work would actually result in fruitful and productive lives for the Kingdom (Read Eph. 2:10 in connection with Eph. 2:8,9).  Also, Eph. 4:28 speaks of the one who has been stealing, to no longer do so, ... instead being useful and working with his hands.  1Thess. 4:11 says to the Thessalonians to make it their ambition to “lead quiet lives and work with their hands so that your daily lives will win the respect of outsiders.”  Even in 2Thess. 3, Paul quotes a saying about “not working and not eating”... ouch.

The idea of calling (klesis) in the Gospels does have a primary sense of being called to be Christ’s or being called to a special mission/evangelistic tour, etc., ... but my reminder to people is that Jesus and the disciples are at a point in redemptive history where they are calling others to repentance, that they might be “new creations” in Christ, those who share in the hope of re-creation, the New Heavens and the New Earth.  It’s a bit speculative, but it’s interesting at least to ponder Jesus’ 30 years as a carpenter and how that set Him up to understand His 3 year mission to “complete the Father’s work.”  When He said His Father is always working, did He have a sense of the creative activity and power of God in creation? Of course He did- He was there!  In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God- He was with God in the beginning!

I miss you "Friend B" and look forward to seeing you back,


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