Wow! how the weeks fly by!? I have been very busy writing for the ‘mid-termers’ project, material for individuals planning on heading overseas for less than two years. i am getting close to completing the book, but it has really taken all of my time over the last several weeks. I just noticed how I have neglected this blog. tsk tsk
In any case, I thought I would post my thoughts on the changing purposes of mission, both the historical as well as present realities. This is the first of 3 parts:
At its core, the mission of Christ was intended to invade the natural order of the universe, a peaceful yet powerful revolution. The dream of Christ was to substitute grace for karma, to stop the cycle of ‘an eye for an eye’, to put an end to giving everyone exactly what he or she deserved.
The essence of the message Jesus that revealed, “the kingdom of God”, surrounded all of life. Jesus taught that every second of the day, humanity is faced with a choice: live according to Caesar, the established order of power, wealth and system; or live the kingdom of God, a seemingly idealistic and naïve version of the world. The choices could not be unified, they oppose one another, and every second of the day, both options stand available to be chosen by anyone.
A new story was being told, at once counter-intuitive, and yet so much more interesting. It confused those who first heard the message, it did not call for the old expected religious piety. Instead Jesus asked his followers to relearn what faith might mean, he called others to join with the poor and oppressed the foreigner and slave. He did not permit people to simply write off others as victims of social stratum, chance, destiny or the gods. Instead Christ asked everyone to take responsibility for that which they were not responsible – one another. Suddenly everyone is my neighbor, not just the person who lives in my home-town, everyone included even the ones with the cult-like beliefs from the next province over.
The message was meant to upset the very structure of society as at the same time it challenged the individual as well as the community. Unscrupulous business practices are tougher with my friend than my enemy. Relationships takes on significance when our partners are to be treated like family rather than mere objects to meet our sexual needs. Power that was usually used to gain friends and influence people was now to be wasted on the hopeless causes of poverty and inequality. It sounded like the loopiest idealism ever considered.
The Mission of the Kingdom was at various times dangerous to politicians, ridiculous to the powerful, unworkable to philosophers and yet still, so very, very compelling. Everyone was invited in; a person only had to be bold enough to believe that acting on the compelling vision of Jesus could actually mean a change in the way of the world. The bar was not set very high for entry, believers were simply asked to attempt to live it out loud. Yet Jesus also knew the stakes, if you followed the rules of the kingdom of Caesar, then all would be well, if instead you began living as though the ‘kingdom of God’ was actual reality you were bound to get into trouble. It would mean crosses in Palestine, torture in Turkey and rubber bullets in Alabama.
After Christ finally co-opted power through the most unlikely of methods – his execution and surprising resurrection, the church accepted that mission. They chose to relearn what faith might mean. To act as though the kingdom was present, they needed to forgive enemies, turn the other cheek, share what was rightfully their own, and trust that God was for everyone, all the world – not just their little ‘blessed’ corner.
Many did empty themselves of years of religious dogma. They relearned what it would mean to believe, they attempted to live it out loud, and somewhere in the very human mess of it all, they found themselves partnered with God to change the natural order of the universe.
I will try to get the second and third sections up this week …