Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How Jesus' Mission Is Hidden

Christ does not call us to follow him so that we can triumph or so that we can rule in a visible way. Jesus called us to his way of life, a way that looks like the cross. If our aim is to rule or to succeed or even to have an impact on society, we will be tempted and most likely succumb to the temptation to be violent "in the name of Jesus." If we seek to make the kingdom visible, we inevitably do so on the terms set up by the world, thereby justifying the Gospel according the rules foreign to the Kingdom. Jacques Ellul put it this way:

"Christ's lordship ... is universal but hidden. It is radical by not expressed. Instituted, it is not institutional. Royal, it is also mediate. Today, it is 'suspended.' ... He does not cease to be servant because he has been exalted by the Father above every name or power. ... This is the lordship of love. Hence it does not use force. It can be exercised only in a mutuality of love. It is in no sense authoritarian. The Lord is he who constantly stands at the door and knocks, waiting until the door is opened, not because he could not force his way in, but because, being love, he does not want to exercise his authority without the assent of the one upon whom he exercises it. Because the only face is this lordship is one of love, its only authority is that which is based on reciprocal love. The love with which God loves man can be rejected or flouted by man. If it is, no authority or lordship is exercised. Everything depends on reciprocity." (The Ethics of Freedom, 83-84)

This is the hidden work of love, much like the hidden growth in a grove of trees. If we look for visible, obvious results, then we will miss how the growth of the kingdom works. 

The love of the cross cannot be forced on the world, because as soon as that tactic is taken, it is no long cross-like love. The work of the kingdom is not the work of triumphing, it is the hard slow work of practicing the way of peace. 

The way of God's mission in the world is not meaured by things like: 

• How many converts have we made?
• How much is our church growing?
• How much impact are we having on out culture?
• How many new churches are we birthed?

This things may or may not result from our ministry of cross-like love, that is following Jesus to the point of dying for others. These are visible ways we typically measure triumph. We may experience positive results according to these standards but we may very well experience things like rejection, persecution, and other forms of suffering. In fact, the New Testament speaks to these results much more than the things that we typically measure.  

We neither shoot for triumph or for suffering. Instead we aim to embody the way of cross-like love as we participate with God in washing the feet of the world. Converstions, growth, impact, and new churches will result—as they have throughout the history of those churches that have embodymied the way of cross-like love. But it won't be the kind that makes for headlines in evangelism magazines or increases your social media klout. This is the hidden growth of how the Spirit weaves God's life into ours. 

No comments: