Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Missional Theology of "Election"

"He [Jesus] appeared, as the Scripture makes clear, to those who had been chosen beforehand as witnesses. They are chosen not for themselves, not to be the exclusive beneficiaries of God's saving work, but to be the bearers of the secret of his saving work for the sake of all. They are chosen to go and bear fruit.

To be chosen, to be elect, therefore does not mean that the elect are the saved and the rest are the lost. To be elect in Christ Jesus, and there is no other election, means to be incorporated into his mission to the world, to be the bearer of God's saving purpose for his whole world, to be the sign and the agent and the firstfruit of his blessed kingdom which is for all. It means therefore, as the New Testament makes abundantly clear, to take our share in his suffering, to bear the scars of the passion. It means, as Paul says elsewhere, to bear in the body the dying of Jesus so that the life of the risen Jesus may be manifest and make available for others." (Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, 86-87)

Why have you and I been chosen to be included as a part of God's people. Chosenness is not about being “in” verses those who are “out.” It's not about being a part of a privileged group that gets to go to heaven. That imagination has no place in the biblical story even though it's a common understanding of election and chosenness.

Israel was chosen to put on display the beauty of God as a colony of life in the midst of a world of death. They were not called to be an exclusive club, but that's what they assumed they were. Too often the modern church has fallen into the same trap. Instead of being purveyors of beauty we have horded it.

Missional communities are outposts of beauty, displaying the life of God in the midst of unGod. Instead of a privilege that we horde because we are his favorite for the sake of being his favorite, we are set apart to suffer with God for the sake of the world's redemption. This is truly a great privilege, but it will cost us much.

We are blessed so that we can bless. We are touched by God's presence so that we can be bearers of the presence in the world. We are loved so that we can love.

Many reading this might recall many sermons on this or variations thereof but in most cases the take home was applied individualistically. We apply this call to our personal lives and try to become individual missionaries in our lives. But the call is not to individuals but to communities. Individuals cannot be a people. We are chosen as individuals to participate in this colony of peace (Shaloam—wholeness and healing) in the midst of strife and violence.

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