Friday, 30 November 2012

Relationship with the World

I'm in the run-up to the last three Sunday mornings when I'll exclusively concentrate on our foundational distinctives.  I have mixed feelings.  We're changing the rota because other guys need to start shouldering some of the weight locally.  And I need to be freer to spend time in Coventry, Leicester and other northern parts that need some input.  I recall the story of the Catholic priest at his ordination in Brussels.  The bishop leaned over to whisper, "Remember my son, the Lord called you to the priesthood because He couldn't trust you."   I can concur that the weekly discipline of preparing a major piece of teaching is a great astringent on the soul.

So I must carefully choose the last three topics.  All along I've been asked to address our relationship with the world.  I've ducked the challenge because I could see we'd fall between the two extremes of being too prescriptive or too conceptual.  I could reiterate the varying positions represented by Tertullian, Origen and Athanasius, who all contributed to the early church's understanding.  Or there's Niebuhr's five "Christ" categories.  But here's my attempt at a framework for what it means to be "in the world but not of it".  

1. Here our feet are kept on the ground, but it's not the source of our generation.  We will for ever be creatures of our created earth.  But, believers are born from above; "not of the earth" (1 Corinthians 15).

2. Here we find our context, but not our conformity (Romans 12).  Much as climate erodes softer elements in forming landscapes, whereas solid materials resist the process.  So our godly identity is formed and evident from within outward, not vice versa.   

3. And, continuing the alliteration, here we find our connection, but not our condition.  We say, "What are the weather conditions?"  Of course, they are geographically locally variable.  We don't have to fall under the spell of universal forecasts.

4. We're rebels, but also rescuers.  Our objections to the fallen order don't amount to an obsession with self-survival.  We're commissioned and prepared to be inclusive.

5. We're revolutionaries, but also redemptive.  We don't focus on tearing down an old world, but championing a new one.  And it delivers us from slavery into the transcendence of the kingdom of heaven. 

The city of Zion is one model.  Salvation must become social in breadth to fulfil God's covenant heart.  The devil's set up a  system that embraces Adam humanity en masse.  God in Christ provides Body life that's home for Christ's new humanity.

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