Posts Tagged ‘world’

The Way of God

Our story begins “In the beginning” with a God created world that was declared to be “good.” Not too far into the story we find this good world was broken. God continued to care deeply about the world and formed a relationship with Abraham and his descendants. These people were to be a blessing to the world by demonstrating the way of God to the world.

While the world was still broken, Jesus came to inaugurate the way of God that he called the Kingdom of God. The people of God were to represent the way of God in this broken world by following King Jesus as citizens of this Kingdom.

Other attempts to make the world a better place are incomplete. They are inadequate and often arrogant and doomed to failure. They are, however, often convincing and even the people of God become tempted by the ways of the world. In contrast, the way of God is to follow Jesus. This is a radical way that will take you to the difficult terrain of humility and self-denial and the way of the cross.

This is not a way we can travel ourselves or by our own strength. Jesus is not ever the private Lord of well-meaning individuals who want to live right and do good. Never. The way of God has always been, and still is, the way of Jesus made visible in the people of God. It is not even possible to seek first the Kingdom without joining the people who embrace the Kingdom.

Anything less is just another worldly attempt to make the world a better place by offering security, health, and happiness and adding the name of Jesus. The way of God calls people into a fellowship that demonstrates the Kingdom to a watching world.


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An all too simple summary of the church and its relationships might sound something like this; A) When the relationship between God and church is strong, the world benefits. B) When the relationship between God and church is strained, the world suffers. C) When the relationship between the world and the church is off balance (either due to alliance or hostility) God grieves. D) When the relationship between the world and the church is balanced (church demonstrating what the world is meant to be), God is pleased.

The above summary implies several things. One, the church holds a central place in creation. Two, the relationship between God and the world remains constant. The world convinces itself it is central and can survive without God. At the same time, God continues to invite and welcome and love the world into relationship.

Yet, relationships involving the church are less consistent. The church has consistently moved back and forth in faithful relationship with God and the world. Corporately, we seem to find it as difficult to love God and neighbor as the rich ruler. Another implication from the above summary is that the world will always struggle with itself without the church. In fact, it is possible the world cannot understand who it is without the church. I think of Stanley Hauerwas at this point, “For the church to be the church, therefore, is not anti-world, but rather an attempt to show what the world is meant to be as God’s good creation.”

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Among other things Good Friday reminds us that when the world feels threatened, it becomes defensive. By default, it will attempt to tame whoever or whatever threatens it. But what the world cannot tame it will label a rebellion and rebellions must be stopped. The world will resort to any violence necessary in order to maintain control.

On Good Friday Jesus was viewed as a revolutionary, his following as a rebellion. It should not surprise us the world responded the way it did. Since the beginning the ways of the world have conflicted with the ways of God. Yet, the intensity increased significantly with the arrival of Jesus. The crucifixion is evidence of that and presents a clear contrast between the way the world works and the way that God works.

Ever since Jesus announced the arrival of the Kingdom of God it was inevitable we would find ourselves at the place called skull where the world is trying to maintain control. In order to do so it mocks and spits and hits and insults and crucifies. Meanwhile, Jesus forgives. As the world demonstrates its ways of keeping order, Jesus demonstrates the ways of God.

The cycle has not changed. And we are in it. Good Friday invites us into the Gospel narrative where the ways of God continue to threaten the world. The world continues to respond in ways they do not understand. And followers of Jesus are to demonstrate the ways of God no matter what the world throws at us.

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The early chapters of Genesis are clear about a world gone wrong. It becomes clear that humans have not done well as God’s representatives in God’s world. God’s plan for this world is nothing less than redemption. Everything that follows in the biblical story tells of the Creator’s plan to counter evil and to restore the world.

The closer we look at Genesis 12, the clearer it becomes that God’s plan is to change the world through a people. Genesis 12 sets this plan in motion. What God desires for the world, He desires to accomplish through this people. About the only thing I can say in response is wow.

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I sometimes wonder about the days when the sons of God, Satan among them, presented themselves before the Lord. I wonder if on one of those days the Lord asked Satan, “Where have you come from?” And Satan would reply “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.”

And then Satan would continue, “I know that you desire humans be your image bearers, your representatives on earth. But the human experiment has been a disaster. They disappoint at every turn. Do you remember what happened in Eden? Have you forgotten the corruption of the days of Noah? Must I remind you what they were doing at Babel? Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that humans will never become the representatives you had hoped for.”

And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered the human Abraham? I have selected him to leave his home. His descendants will be many and his reputation will bring me glory. The whole earth will be influenced by this plan.”

Then Satan answered the Lord, “Have you considered his age? Have you considered he is childless and his wife is barren?” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, watch this plan change the world.”

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One July day a fire started in Rome.  The Emperor accused the Christians and punished them by using Christians as living torches to light the nighttime games at the Circus Maximus.  This is the story that we enter when we read I Timothy.  We are introduced to a dangerous world where we are in danger of losing everything.  I Timothy encourages you to not allow anyone to deny your role in this story.

One April day a baby boy was born.  When his grandfather first saw him he remarked “that boy looks like Johnny Yuma… he is the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen.”  I did not choose to enter the world like this; it is just the way it happened.  I wish that I, or any one, could tell you all the good things that I have done and all the mistakes I have made since then and you would respond by doing the good things, avoiding the bad things, and life would be good.  But we all know that life gets more complicated than that.

Lucy Pevensie stepped into a wardrobe one rainy day during a game of hide and seek with her brothers and sister and became an important part of a great adventure.  Yet another day a girl named Alice went into a rabbit hole after a white rabbit with a waist coat and pocket watch and experienced an adventure she never imagined.  Another day Sam asks Frodo, “I wonder what sort of tale we’ve fallen into?”  We would do well to be asking ourselves that question.

I mention these stories because the characters were not looking for an adventure, they just found themselves in one.  I propose that life is like this.  We all find ourselves in a story that is not of our choosing.  We do not go out seeking such cosmic drama.  We do not know how we get tangled into the story that carries meaning for eternity.  We just find ourselves in it.

My story has never taken me to a place where I had to battle the White Witch or a Jabberwocky.  The emperor has never threatened to light me on fire so that his audience would have light for night-time entertainment.  Yet, I propose that it is still a very dangerous story.  The world wants you.  It will lure you.  It will not stop until it has your soul.  There is a story in II Timothy about a guy named Demas.  He has already been introduced in the letters we know as Colossians and Philemon.  In II Timothy, Paul shares the unfortunate news that “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me.”

We are here on the border of what is holy and what is not.  This isn’t an easy place.  This world is enemy occupied territory.  This world wants your soul.  Demas “loved this world.”  What does this love look like?  What luxuries and excesses does the world offer to lure us?  We might wish that the text were clear about this, but it does not give details.  It just leaves readers to wrestle with the implications.  One thing the text does tell is that even while in the company of apostles and evangelists one chooses the world over the good news.  The voices of this world keep trying to convince us to believe its version of the story.  How will we respond?  Would we have been a reflection of God in front of the emperor?  Are we a reflection of God on our street and in our zip code?

This is the story you have fallen into.  You are part of an adventure that is not of your own choosing.  Wardrobes, rabbitholes, and zip codes are all places where we find stories that are demanding, daring, and dangerous.  The story we are now living has eternal implications.  Do not let anyone deny you your role in the story.

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The Gospel of John tells us that the world was made by God.  Yet, that world, according to John, “knew Him not.”  John finds the world to be a dark place.  The world is presented as being blind to the ways of God.  The world is in opposition to God.  There is a sense of blindness vs. sight, of darkness vs. light.

But, John goes on to tell us how God responds when He looks at this dark, blind world.  What does God do when he looks at this place that is opposed to His ways?  John tells us that God so loved this world that He gave His only Son.  We learn this while Jesus is in conversation with Nicodemus.  Interestingly, a conversation that occurs in the dark.

The Gospel of John wants to bring the reader from out of the dark and into the light.  (It is also of interest that the next time we find Nicodemus it is daylight).  John wants us to know that there is only one way out of this darkness.  So, we are introduced to a man who was born blind.  We watch as the man born blind is introduced along with Pharisees who seem to see clearly.  As the story progresses, the one born blind gains his sight.  At the same time, the Pharisees are declared to be spiritually blind.

John seems to suggest that while physical blindness may be unfortunate, spiritual blindness is a real danger.  But, he also insists that as surely as Jesus healed this one born blind – He is also able to save the spiritually blind.  It is strongly implied that giving sight to one born blind is impossible, “since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.”  Yet, such things arre not impossible for the One who is the Light of the World.

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