In my last post, I asked the question, might it be true that we as God’s people today, have drifted and also need “a renewed theological vision of the church on mission?” Perhaps our understanding of God is too narrow. Our box for Him too small.
Lesslie Newbigin’s writings all began with a conviction that the church in the West was experiencing a cultural captivity that we were oblivious about. Or perhaps we were guilty of doing the very thing that J.B. Phillips warned against in his rendition of Romans 12: “Do not let the world squeeze you into its mold.”
Perhaps these three prepositions will give us a way to reflect on how we understand God:
John 1 and other passages indicate that Christ is in the world. We need to have a fresh look at the implications of God’s presence in the world. Jonah was astounded that God was in Nineveh. The Israelites were amazed that God was in Babylon. We too need to learn to see God in our neighbourhoods—active and at work.
The implication for us is that we as a church need to stop coming up with all of these plans for changing the world, and instead learn to discern where God is already at work and join in with Him. It may also mean that we need to pay careful attention to the way in which we learn to live in the world as witnesses to Him.
The book of Exodus (and other scriptures), indicate that God is for people. Often, we have understood Him to be against this and opposed to that, but we need to be renewed in our understanding that even His name carries with it the sense that He is for people. It does not mean that He approves of everything we do, or that He turns a blind eye to our sin, but rather that fundamentally God is for us…and for the world. Even God’s holiness means that this is true.
The implications for us must be that as we seek to be holy as He is holy, we too need to be known for what we are for and not so much for what we are against. This also has implications for how we learn to stand up for those who are disadvantaged and less privileged, learning to differentiate between the empire and the Kingdom of God.
Immanuel. God is with us. We know this fact intellectually, but I wonder if we may need to actually realize it practically. God is in the world and for the world. And He sends us to go and be His hands and feet and mouth to practice and proclaim the reality of the Kingdom. But we need to understand that we are His kids and that He promises to be with us.
The implication for us is that we no longer rely on our own strength, but instead learn to trust in Him and rely on the power of the Spirit at work in us. It also means we need to learn to live as a covenant community, instead of collection of contracted individuals.
God is a missionary God, who is at work in the world, is for the world, and invites us to put our confidence in Him as He uses us to redeem all things.