Today I want to tie them together with a word you might not have been expecting: REDEMPTION – The process and result of God’s saving action in Christ.
Christ has become ‘complicit’ in our nature so that we might become ‘complicit’ in Him and in His mission.
The affirmation of the uniqueness of Christ is a key front in the battle for truth. This signal doctrine of evangelicalism is dependent on His being a universal savior. That which he is, he is for all. That which he does, which he offers, is for all.
The very essence of human trafficking (and many other forms of stigmatization) is the discounting of and devaluing of people, seeing “worth less” people. We might note how significant it is that the “traditional” Russian word for “handicapped” – in a culture where people with disabilities are stigmatized – is “niepolnotsenniy” – not of full value. (Thankfully, at least in Ukraine, our home away from home, that has been changing. Our Catalyst Team is honored, through partnerships with Joni and Friends and others, to be personally engaged in this particular culture shift.)
So here’s the deal. Worshipping God while remaining complicit in a system that, by its very nature, devalues God’s image bearers, makes him into a ‘tribal deity.’ We worship a god for us (people of full value), but not The God of the Universe. It reduces our apologetic, our evangelism, to the superiority of our god over other peoples’ gods… not God’s message to the world – HIS world – spoken through us.
When we fully and completely articulate the Gospel in word and in deed, in our individual lives and in our shared life in Christ, we present not just a picture or at token of redemption, but allow people to experience its reality. A redemption that is ONLY for some, ONLY affects PART of the human person, that ONLY affects certain SORTS of people, or that only affects PEOPLE (not the structures they make nor the rest of creation) is a watered-down version of the redemption that God has in mind.
What IS “salvation” anyhow? What does it mean to “BE SAVED”? It’s not just about where you go when you die. Actually, it’s not only about YOU. It’s about God redeeming and restoring his fallen creation. And us getting to participate with Him in that mission: We have been called to walk with God… it is THAT which must inform our pursuit of justice, not the other way around.
How do we see this world that God is in the process of redeeming? As we seek to understand this world, it is hugely important that we also assess our own complicity with its dehumanizing and devaluing of people. If we are not complicit, then we can objectively compare the phenomenon in the world with objective moral standards and render moral judgments. But if we are complicit, we cannot proceed to do so until we have understood the ways in which we are “enmeshed” in the situation we wish to study.
One factor that complicates matters for many Christians is a non-incarnational or over-spiritualized view of reality. A view that sees “current events” as little more than a “barometer” of sorts, giving a report on how close the “end” is getting. When we read or hear or see videos of various sorts of “disturbances” in our world, some remind us that “near the end” such things are bound to increase, note that we certainly are hearing more about such things, and hunker down to get ready for the Rapture.
This “end times hermeneutic” of current events demonizes (or at least factors out) life reality, so that it is dealt with at a non-historical level. We need to consider that the very things which are disturbing our world may well be God shaking His Church to awaken her from her slumber to be who only she can be.
If the church is growing (by some measure), while the unjust structures of society are pretty much the same, we need to ask: What kind of Gospel are we preaching, and what sort of church are we establishing? We need to plant seeds that will provide a transforming harvest, to experience a conversion that calls for changing the unjust patterns of society.
We know from His own lips that Jesus came “to proclaim release to the captives… and to set free those who are oppressed.” When God’s people acknowledge and respond to what is “not right” in our disturbed and disturbing world, beginning with ourselves and the communities in which we live and work, how might the gospel be heard and understood differently? How much more powerful might the witness of our churches be if we embrace God’s call to justice?
We’ll look at some of the implications of this call in our next post in this series.