Taking hold of the far-reaching implications of Jesus’ restoration project is something I continually harp on because it can play an important role in transforming the posture with which we hold the gospel.
My experience within evangelical Christian circles has often been one in which followers of Jesus envision themselves as the small, minority truth-holders, struggling to cling to what it right, and ever cautious and even fearful about fully engaging in other “worlds” that might be tainted by godlessness, or liberalism, or the like (since those to are “alike,” right?! *ahem*).
Last night I had the opportunity to participate on a panel that was responding to questions posed by a group of college students. We fielded questions such as, “What are Christians supposed to do about evolution, especially science majors?” “What should Christians think about environmentalism?” “What about people who never hear the message of Jesus?”
The questions are important ones in many respects. But the overall sense I got from the questions was that Christian faith is a small fortress to be guarded carefully. And I wondered if we didn’t need to start reimagining a capacious vision of the reign of God as our gospel.
I think the problem of a small, carefully guarded fortress starts early. In youth group we learn that the gospel means: (1) Jesus died for your sins; (2) you shouldn’t sleep with your boyfriend or girlfriend; and (3) drinking is bad.
There’s not much good news in that, except in the hope that if you can control your hormones you get to be with Jesus drinking grape juice one day.
But what if we begin, instead, with, “God was, in Christ Jesus, reconciling all things to himself”?
Then the world of nature and science does not stand as a looming threat to our faith, but as a witness to the breadth of the saving care of God.
Then the preservation of the environment becomes not merely a fleeting liberal hobby-horse, but a crucial pillar in the eternal plan of God. You think you care about the environment? Well, you’ve got nothing on the creator.
Maybe even questions about sex and sexuality can be received, gratefully, as gifts, rather than fearful lands to be trod, if at all, with extreme caution.
Paul talks about the reception of the Spirit as a transforming moment that moves us from slavish fear to the freedom of the glory of the children of God. It moves us into the realm where we know ourselves to be members of God’s family and instruments in the turning of the ages.
Posture, it seems to me, is as important as details. If we cannot posture ourselves with arms wide open to the cosmos that God has reconciled to himself, then we are not so positioned as to come to faithful answers to the questions that plague us. And we might not even be in the position to be plagued by the right questions.