By Greg Forster; part six of a series.
This is a post about ruling the world.
Then it went through the three major theological areas where there is, in general, a lack of consensus or clarity in the movement: soteriology (is our suffering redemptive?), ecclesiology (how does our view of work relate to the culture’s?) and eschatology (how does our knowledge of the future affect our lives now?).
It’s time to start descending from these clouds of confusion down toward the airport runway of clarity. Seven is a nice, biblical number, so I’ll wrap up this series the same way I started it, in two steps.
In this generation that is facing unprecedented disruption of cultural structures, in both good and bad ways, I think we are going to need to make the Great Commission the center of our attention. The key insights we need, both for our movement and for the church’s cultural challenges in general, are distilled there:
- Make disciples: Not “make converts” but “make disciples.” Pray a magic prayer and you get to go to heaven when you die is making converts, but our mission is to cooperate with God’s work of transformation toward Christlikeness.
- Of all nations: Pentecost has permanently embedded God’s people into every culture and civilization. Our job is not to sustain any particular cultural form but to manifest the transformative work of the Spirit in every cultural context.
- Baptizing them: To be united to Jesus, especially in his death and resurrection, is the only hope for humanity. Only his atonement can cleanse us of guilt, fear and shame.
- Into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Through Christ we enter the life of the triune God; the holy love of the three divine persons for each other is poured into us so we can pour it out to others.
- Teach them to obey everything I have commanded: Commanded . . . command . . . commandment . . . where have I heard this before? Oh, yeah!
Union with Christ is the heart of the Great Commission, and should be at the heart of our movement and his church.
As I conclude this series on suffering, though, I want to look at what comes just before the Great Commission and what comes just after it. These bookends tell us two different places Jesus will be as we carry out the commission he gives us.
Before Jesus delivers the Great Commission, we hear this:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.
“But some doubted.” I sympathize!
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and…”
Insert Great Commission here.
The word “therefore” is important. The church is sent out into the world to make disciples of all nations because Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth.
And as we learn to understand, trust and obey Jesus in our whole lives, we help him rule the world. We are prophets, priests and kings under Jesus – he has “all authority” as the supreme prophet, great high priest and king above all kings, and he delegates his authority to us.
We are sent out into the world to tell it the truth about God, with gentleness and respect but not ashamed of the gospel; to reconnect it to God, with justice and mercy; to rule it for God, responsible for his world as his stewards.
And that is often a painful task!
Consider what Martin Luther says about changing diapers in his sermon on marriage. Pagan teachers said a man who spends his time changing dirty diapers (remember, no disposables, it was all cloth back then) thereby gives up leisure to contemplate God or do virtuous deeds. On the contrary, Luther rejoins, we become better when we spend some of our time changing dirty diapers:
Now you tell me, when a father goes ahead and washes diapers or performs some other mean task for his child, and someone ridicules him as an effeminate fool, though that father is acting in the spirit just described and in Christian faith, my dear fellow you tell me, which of the two is most keenly ridiculing the other? God, with all his angels and creatures, is smiling, not because that father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith. Those who sneer at him and see only the task but not the faith are ridiculing God with all his creatures, as the biggest fool on earth. Indeed, they are only ridiculing themselves; with all their cleverness they are nothing but devil’s fools.
That baby is going to die if no one takes care of it, and Jesus loves the little children.
This, then, is one of the two places we find Jesus in our suffering. He rules the world, and we endure suffering for the honor of ruling it under him.