At Work in Your Midst

Ever pray for God to be at work in a situation, in a place, in a relationship, in a church?

I’m pretty sure I have. And it never much occurred to me that I might be doing something exceedingly dangerous. It was reflecting on “atonement” in the Luke-Acts that made me think twice.

I remember being taken aback my first semester of my PhD program when people were off-handedly talking about Luke not having an atonement theology. But as I started to dig in I saw the point: Luke seems to have purposely eliminated Mark’s ransom saying. It may be replaced by the saying about coming to serve at table. And, if Bart Ehrman is right, Luke may have eliminated the sacrificial overtones of the last supper.

The cross serves a different kind of purpose in Luke: it makes the Jewish people, in particular, realize that they need God’s forgiveness (rather than making such forgiveness possible).

But then, that brings us up to the problem: the reason they should see they need forgiveness is that God was at work in their world–and they didn’t see it.

Worse, they didn’t merely miss seeing it, they actively worked against it. They opposed the one through whom God was at work, actively and powerfully.

And here is where I circle back to my question: are we really sure we want God to be at work in our midst? What if he is, and we miss it? What if he is, and we actively oppose it?

If the ministry of Jesus shows us anything, it is that the people who should have the clearest vision–both because of their knowledge of scripture and the ways of God and because of their proximity to God’s work–are the ones who oppose the work of God most vehemently.

Yes, of course, I want God at work.

But we should be as diligent in praying for eyes to see and celebrate that God at work as invoking the action in the first place.

10 thoughts on “At Work in Your Midst”

  1. Not to go all seasonal on you, but, one might add, kind of like Herod and the magi in Matthew. We find God’s activity especially dangerous when we feel it threatens what we most want to hold onto.

  2. Good post, although I would push back a little on “the people who should have the clearest vision” comment. Those who were genuinely close to God (as opposed to those who were self-righteous) like Simeon and Anna DID see it.

  3. Yeah, I catch myself doing this sometimes, too, and it bugs me. “I pray You’ll be with them…” As if He isn’t! He’s always with us. He’s always working on our behalf. The point, as you say, is that we will have eyes to see and ears to hear. I try to remember to pray THAT instead. Thanks for the good reminder.

  4. Daniel,

    Re: Luke not having atonement theology…

    What is the bit in Luke 23 about Barabbas about? Just a strange non-historically verifiable practice of prisoner swap to heighten the passion-narrative theatrics …or could there be some subtle atonement ideas at work in that?

    Thoughts?

  5. Not exactly your point, but somewhere nearby: One time I had an actual priest trace a giant cross, which I am quite sure he visualized as flaming, between us. I instinctively called back “And also with you.” When I thought it over later, I realized that while he intended a curse, the only thing he could actually say was “God be with you.” Sorta like Balaam. And my reply was most lovingly appropriate and I was thankful for the inspiration.

  6. Jewish persons, like all others, have available a personal means of eternal salvation. Accept and believe the good news that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior.

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