“The end is reconciliation; the end is
redemption; the end is the creation
of the beloved community.”
– ML King, Jr.
In just one week, my post titled “Will Gandhi Burn” became one of my top five most popular posts of all time. It also drew a good number of very insightful comments which made me want to unpack this issue a bit more. This week I would like to dig a little deeper into Jay’s comment:
“We diminish Jesus death and resurrection if we do not lean fully into His great big, grand salvation plan (the redemption of all things Col 1).”
Like Jay, I think when we over emphasize “individual salvation” we miss the fuller understanding of Christ work of reconciling all things. Many other writers and theologians also agree that our obsession with the afterlife and who is “in” and who is “out” has gotten us completely off track. This quote from Richard Stearns, “The Hole in Our Gospel” says it best,
“The Kingdom for Christ was not intended to be a far-off and distant kingdom to be experienced only in the afterlife; no, Christ’s proclamation of the “kingdom of heaven” was a call for the redeemed world order populated by redeemed people – now. Focusing almost exclusively on the afterlife reduces the importance of what God expects of us in this life. The kingdom of God, which Christ said is “within you” (Luke 17:21), was intended to change and challenge everything in our fallen world in the here and now. In the Lords prayer “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” were and are a clarion call of Jesus’ followers not just to proclaim the good news but to be the good news, here and now. (Matt. 6:10) This gospel – the whole gospel – means much more than the personal salvation of individuals. It means a social revolution.”
When I spoke with Jay this week, he suggested I read Operation: Restoration by Eric Smith. Below are a few excerpts from that text.
“More than any other single topic, Christ taught about the Kingdom of God, which is the world as it ought to be—a world marked by harmonious relationships, a sufficiency of resources, and shalom living. Scriptures about the new heavens and a new earth describe a scenario where God’s reign is made fully manifest. (Isaiah 65:17-25, Revelations 21:1-7 & 22:1-5) They give us a clear picture of what Christ means when He talks about the Kingdom of God.
Christ’s program of healing and casting out demons was meant to be a concrete expression of this new reality breaking into a fallen world. Not only did Jesus talk about it, He taught us to pray about it. The Kingdom was Christ’s framework for describing the world when God’s reign is complete—where His values and agenda are fully manifested.
God’s intention for the whole creation, and especially for human beings, was that all things should exist in peaceful, loving harmony so that the whole creation could flourish. This is shalom; all things as God intended them to be and do. And all people living up to their full potential as His image-bearers.
The Church is sometimes referred to as, “the people of God doing the work of God.” This definition begs the question, what is the work of God? Another way of asking that question is, what is the agenda of God? And what role do we have in living this agenda in our communities.”
2nd Corinthians puts it like this:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us (2 Corinthians 5:17-19 NIV).”
Eric Smith summarizes with this:
“Christ’s mission was to reconcile all things, both spiritual and physical, both individual and corporate. In order to have an impact at the individual (mercy) level, the Church must also have an impact at the corporate (justice) level. The Church must be missional in its mindset, holistic in its approach and transformational in its impact.”
I loved these words from Sammy Williams blog post titled “Genesis”
“Well, it’s amazing how many Christians begin the biblical story with Genesis 3, focusing on sin and the fall of humanity. Neither the word sin nor the word fall occurs in Genesis 3. If you begin the story with Genesis 3, the primary issue becomes the removal of sin and the posture toward people is who we are not (not worthy, not holy, not good enough). If you begin the story with Genesis 1 and 2, the story becomes about the restoration/renewal/reconciliation of all things, which obviously includes the removal of sin but extends to the ends of the cosmos.”
I’m with Dr. King, Jay, Richard, Eric, Sammy, the Apostle Paul and Jesus – our job as Christians is to remember that all of us are children of God, created in God’s image. Christ is calling us to be “reconcilers,” people who see the beauty of the original design of creation and who are ushering in the Kingdom of God here and now.