This is part 2 of Immanuel’s Theological Vision. You can find part 1 by clicking here.
We live in such a fragmented society. At this point, almost every element of society is responding as a victim. Everyone is slighted to one degree or another. Everyone is polarized. As a matter fact, in my 59 years, I have never seen a more volatile moment in our culture’s history. Here are a couple of examples.
The first one is a bit silly. A year ago I was watching football on TV and in the LSU game, the former Hall of Fame basketball player Karl Malone was in the stands. Apparently, his son plays for LSU. The picture they kept looping back to confirmed Malone was using a flip phone in the stands. Pretty innocuous, right? Not so in today’s age. As a result of him using a flip phone, the Internet went wild, accusing him of being an archaic buffoon. There was tweet after tweet and Facebook post after Facebook post talking about how ridiculous it was for him to use a flip phone. It got so intense that it could be called “crowd pounding.” Fortunately for Karl Malone, he probably could care less.
Another example is from my own life. It occurred during Pope Francis’ visits to the US. While I have no intention of converting to Catholicism, it is no secret that I have a serious man crush on Pope Francis. I think he is remarkable and have not been shy about sharing my admiration for him through my social media outlets. The sad part is, there’s a certain fundamentalist element of my history that is quite offended by me liking the pope,errrrr, “antichrist” I have had numerous people write me questioning my integrity as a Christian leader in showing my approval of Pope Francis’s trip. One even said, quoting from the Apostle Paul in the book of Acts that there will be many wolves coming among you, inferring that Pope Francis was one of the wolves that we should be aware of. Sheesh!
There are many other volatile issues where folks are separated such as racial tension, political angst and national cynicism.
Paul talks about this type of brokenness and estrangement in Ephesians 2. He talks about people being broken, separated, and estranged without God in the world. But he also goes on to say that Jesus himself is our peace and he has broken down every wall that separates us. In fact he goes on to say that God has created a new humanity. Everything that separates us from other humans; Jesus has provided a way for us to experience peace. God’s shalom. Paul even says that Christ does more than provide peace, he himself is our peace. This new humanity, Paul goes on to describe in the next chapter as the church.
So what does it look like? What does this new humanity look like?
Paul describes it for us.
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26-28
Paul says no more Jew or Gentile, which refers to ethnic separation. He says there is no more slave or free. In other words, no more economic elitism. He also says no more male or female, eradicating gender inequality. But Christ remedies each and all of those points of separation.
OK, this passage is the catalyst for my dream. It is that we would become a community of difference, a diverse community…wealthy and poor, men and women, married and single, from various racial backgrounds representing Christ in the world. See, the gospel doesn’t call us to give up our differences, but to subordinate them for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
Why? Because the church is to be as Lesslie Newbigin has said, a sign, foretaste, and instrument of the kingdom. John Durham uses a different word picture. He calls the people of God “…a display people.” Our community is to act and look like what the consummated kingdom is in reality. It is to show the world what the new creation is to look like. In a word we are to be new creation people.
German theologian, Gearhart Lofink wrote,
“It can only be that God begins in a small way, at one single place in the world. There must be a place, visible, tangible, where the salvation of the world can begin: that is, where the world becomes what it is supposed to be according to God’s plan. Beginning at that place, the new thing can spread abroad, but not through persuasion, not through indoctrination, not through violence. Everyone must have the opportunity to come and see. All must have the chance to behold and test this new thing. Then, if they want to, they can allow themselves to be drawn into the history of salvation that God is creating.”
I was speaking to someone this recently about our church community. They asked how it was going. My response was, “Well, we are not there yet, but Immanuel is emerging into God’s dream.” I can sense it; if you were a part, I think you could as well.