There is bad news, and we need to hear it if we are to make any sense of the good news. The bad news is we are broken. Broken in our own lives, in our lives with each other as human beings, and broken in our spiritual lives. How did we end up so broken, and what are we to do about it?
Today we were blessed to hear God’s Word spoken to us through Sandra Unger and Paul Eddy. They ushered in a short series on the topic of Biblical Reconciliation. Of course, we have heard this term “reconciliation” used frequently here at WHC, but this next month will take us to a deeper place of understanding reconciliation as “God’s one item agenda” (to borrow a phrase from Curtiss De Young) with many different applications. Sandra asked a question that takes us straight to the point. There is bad news, and we need to hear it if we are to make any sense of the good news. The bad news is we are broken. Broken in our own lives, in our lives with each other as human beings, and broken in our spiritual lives as well. Sandra offered some facts to back the claim up:
- Baptists have the highest divorce rate, and Atheists and agnostics have among the lowest rates! (this stat is specific to Caucasians)
- Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour of the week. (Read Divided by Faith to study this phenomenon further.)
- There are over 10,000 different Christian denominations, which goes to show that Christians are not people of unity, generally speaking.
- The highest percentage of female ministers in any Evangelical denomination (that Sandra could find) had 16% of their ministers that are women. Many had none at all.
- And unquantifiable is the depth and prevalence of our brokenness with God, even in the Christian church.
Sandra handed things over to Paul at this point with the question: “How did we end up so broken?”
Paul began as far back as one can go! Gen. 1. But before he went back that far, Paul reminded us that: “…every therapy session, every courtroom case, every political movement, every drug deal, pornography addiction, every time we chase after the American Dream is just another attempt by us human beings to medicate or fix our brokenness. Broken relationships—with God, with each other, even with our own selves.” This summarizes the bad news quite well.
Paul then went back to Gen. to offer a picture of what God intended for humanity. A vision of what we could become that emerges in contrast to how we fell. God created many things before human beings, but none of them reflected the glory of who God is in a personal way. Human beings were designed to do just this. We are made in the image of God. Our ability to relate to each other personally through love and self-less interest in the wellbeing of others is unique in creation. We were also given a responsibility to steward the earth and these relationships in a way that surpasses that of the other creatures. Paul offered a thought experiment:
Moment One: We (human beings) are in the garden and we are other oriented rather than self-oriented. We give to God and each other what is due to them. We relate rightly to ourselves, to God and to other human beings. All seems good.
Moment Two: A return to Greg’s teaching on love and the knowledge of good and evil was underlying Paul’s words as he described the effect of the fall. We went from relating to God rightly through worship, trust, obedience and love…to not trusting God, wondering if God has our best interest in mind—which means at the very least, worship and obedience are threatened if not destroyed in this moment—and we also believe a lie about ourselves. That lie is that we could be like God, knowing good from evil and being worthy to judge the difference between the two. This fall means the break of all of our relationships. Without our trusting faith in God, we do not relate to God rightly through worship and obedience, without this right relationship to God we cannot relate to ourselves rightly—since we were designed for relationship with God as essential to our health, and without these two, we cannot love our neighbor rightly either.
Moment two had consequences. Given the breakdown of the necessary relationships we humans need, we away from God and seek other sources of life. We are found running and hiding from God, though God still pursues us. When we feel conviction, we blame others, even God or Satan for our troubles. Our relationships are marked by power-struggles and pain rather than joy and peace. Thank God that this was not the last moment for humanity!
Moment Three: Sandra picked up at this point and proclaimed the good news that Jesus Christ brings as the reconciler of our brokenness. She illustrated the many ways that Jesus brought healing and unity where there was none. Of course, this bringing of unity and healing does not mean that there will now be peace! We are not always ready for the radical action that love brings with it when it manifests itself in our midst! The people were not ready to accept the people Jesus accepted, people were not ready to accept that God would do this radical thing of being born a lowly human being that is not even among the more cultured among us! People were certainly not ready to forsake the way of life they had come to know and love in order to follow Christ with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. After all, they would be kicked out of the church (the synagogue, the equivalent of “the church” at that time for those who would follow Christ, who was a Jew) just for being associated with him!!!
Jesus’ message was clear. Be ye therefore reconciled. To God, to yourself, and to your neighbor (EVERYone you meet is your neighbor).
Moment Four: So, then, we sit around and wait for Jesus to come back in power and bring with him the Kingdom of God so that he can wipe every tear from our eye and heal all that ails us. Right? No. We are not merely recipients of God’s grace, we are ambassadors of it. This “moment” is the one in which we manifest the Kingdom of God in our midst because it is real and alive in our hearts, homes, churches, in the very Spirit which gives us life. This is what Paul (the Apostle) meant by “walking in the Spirit.” It is as ambassadors of God’s reconciliation through Christ that we work against the evil structures in the world that oppress people. The oppression comes in many forms: spiritual, economic, social, ethnic and others. Whatever the form, it is for freedom from such things that Christ died to set us free. It is the church’s responsibility to manifest this freedom and empower it in the world so that people would be free indeed. “The Kingdom of God” is the phrase that captures the vision for this new reality that Jesus came to establish the foundations of while here on earth as a human being. We are now to build on that foundation (see I Cor. 3:11-13). It is not yet time to drag out our lawn chairs and bask in the sun, we have a church to build, a people to become, a Bride for the King to prepare for our God.
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