I am tired of being just another religious person. So often it seems that Christianity is just another thing that I’m a part of. Even as a church planter, as someone who left behind the illusion of stability to attempt something risky for the kingdom, it still often feels like I’m just another man who happens to be a Christian.
As a man I can be corrupted, co-opted, ignored and discarded. So I must become more than a man. I cannot do that alone, in isolation, by my own creativity and power. I can only accomplish this as part of something bigger than myself; bigger than a man; bigger even than humanity. And yet it must be intensely and fully human. Fully human in a way that few of us have experienced.
We must become more than a group of friends, more than a congregation. We must become a symbol of something bigger. It must be bigger than an empire, it must be representative of a whole world. A world beyond this world, greater than this world, different from this world. And yet it will bear a strange familiarity because it is the essence from which this world was formed and that which this world dreams of becoming.
We must be more than just another religious group. We must be symbols of this other world. We must be citizens and participants in the reality of this new world. And yet because we know (at least to some degree) why this new world seems so familiar, even in its strangeness, we cannot leave the present world behind. We are a symbol of the new world because we are also locals who have been named ambassadors and harbingers of its coming.
This “something bigger” we are part of is nothing less than the remaking of creation. It is the transformation of this world into the new world it has always been destined to become. But we cannot believe that it is our world to make. We cannot fall into the trap of arrogantly assuming this world will appear when we reach our own perfection. If the world and the symbol are of our own making, they can be corrupted. They can be controlled, conquered and bought. The world we anticipate, represent and experience is a world beyond this world and we have been invited to take our place in its rightful arrival.
To become this symbol and to participate in this new reality we must be radically committed to the small local reality. We must not forget that we were chosen to serve as heralds precisely because we are inhabitants of the present world. Those chosen as ambassadors of this new reality are the people next door, not strangers from a foreign country. We must be fully present where we are. For us the symbol must be more than a symbol, it must be concrete…even mundane.
We must maintain the realization that we now carry dual citizenship. If we forget the new world we represent, our eyes will be darkened and we will be fighting a battle with insurmountable odds. However, if we forget the world in which we were first born, to whom will we serve as a symbol? We will lose touch. We will lose our voice in this place.
To accomplish this we must do more than good deeds, though they are part of the whole to be sure. Beyond good deeds we must become the change our good deeds point to. This cannot happen unless we are radically committed to our shared mission…and to one another.
This includes reordering our commitments so that we do not experience long periods of isolation in work and other routines. This will mean sacrifice. It will mean thinking of family and community in ways that seem foreign or even foolish to more…sensible minds, even “Christian” ones.
This includes actively inviting others to come and see what the new world holds, and so it must also mean experiencing the new world as a reality worth inviting others to investigate. If we do not live the life, we are no symbol at all, merely theorists or thespians. If we do not invite others to see, we are no symbol at all, merely separatists.
If we do great deeds without proclaiming the source of all that is good, we are just another corruptible and forgettable human institution. If we proclaim the source of all that is good without exemplifying the new life available from that source, our symbol has no substance.
To speak directly, if we believe that we have been called to join in the mission of God then (among others) three things must be true. First we must experience the healing and reconcilliation of the Kingdom ourselves. This means that where distrust and isolation were the norm, deep connection and relationship (with God, one another and the “other”) must become the new normal. If it isn’t at least becoming true for us, how can we claim it is something real and worth exploring?
Second, we must be engaged in the ministry of reconciliation. We must actively seek out the dark places in our society and shed light and hope. We should be working against oppression, isolation, poverty, violence, neglect and abuse of power. This is the calling. Wherever we find examples of brokenness and darkness in this world, we can trust that God is at work there…we should join in that work.
And third, we must be inviting others to experience the same call in their lives. It is not enough to simply do good, just as it is not enough to fail to do good. We have to be intentional about introducing others to the hope we have. They don’t have to become disciples of Jesus in order to receive kindness, but they certainly shouldn’t be denied the opportunity because we failed to invite them to come and see.
The time has come to move beyond talking about this kingdom and to live as though it were a present (though still arriving) reality. None of us can do this alone, but none of us have to wait for an organization to tell us to begin. This kingdom has been among us for millennia…Its time.