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Loving Every Ray of God’s Light

July 21, 2014

When I became a follower of Christ, I was led to believe that the mission of the church is embodied in the Great Commission:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

This passage is typically seen as a call to evangelism, but a close reading will reveal it is in fact a call to discipleship. Nowhere in Scripture do I mark Jesus instruct us to make converts. Only the work of the Holy Spirit can bring a person to faith. But I reserve this line of thought as grist for another mill.

Regardless of that, I always had a certain uneasiness with the assertion that the Great Commission is a thumbnail sketch of the mission of the church. The more I pored over the pages of my Bible, the more I realized just how inconsistent with a global understanding of Scripture that is. I came to find the idea not only troubling, but also untenable. Mission narrowed to evangelization (or discipleship)is simply not comprehensive enough. Without a doubt we are called to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom, to make disciples to baptize them, and to teach them. But to suggest that this is all we are called to, in my opinion, betrays a “frail grasp on the big picture”. As pressing as the salvation of the world’s people is, I hear God inviting me and all his people to something, that though it certainly includes the Great Commission, is much more encompassing, much more far-reaching, so much grander: he calls us to partner with him in what is, and has always been, at his very heart—missio Dei, the redemptive mission of God that illuminates the grand narrative of the entire Bible. The mission of the church is to serve that mission for God’s glory. To put it simply, we are called to find out what God is already doing and join in.

The dualism that sees a contradiction between the “spiritual” and the “natural” stands as an impediment to participation in this mission. It suggests that God is only concerned, and therefore involved, in the spiritual, standing apart from the natural. This thinking has led to the belief that Christians should focus on spiritual (heavenly) things and forsake natural (worldly) things. But emphasizing one over the other negates both. No such dualism is found in Scripture. God is the creator of ALL things. And he loves ALL of his creation. Six times in the creation story of Genesis 1, God’s pleasure with what he spoke into being is underscored. Finally, in verse 31 it reaches a crescendo: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”  Further consider the words of perhaps the best known verse in the Bible:  “God so loved the world ….  (emphasis mine).

In Jesus there is no spiritual-natural divide, no sacred-secular dualism. As Teilhard de Chardin remarked, “To those who can see, nothing is profane.” In Christ, all is sacred.He is Creator and Redeemer, Lord of all. His compassion, care and concern know no boundaries; his plan of redemption encompasses every created thing. The cross of Christ was for all of creation.

And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:20 ESV)

Missio Dei is about far more than the redemption of individual people; it is God’s reclamation of everything he created. To my reading of Scripture, the church is called to demonstrate his love not just for humanity; we are to devote ourselves to a redemptive relationship with creation as a whole.

Consequentially, all aspects of creation should have deep, eternal meaning and value for all Christians. As his partners, we the Church are to stand with Jesus on his sweeping mission, to be compassionate stewards of our Lord’s creation—all things natural as well as spiritual. We are to keep God’s creation just as he keeps us, to rule over the earth just as he rules over us—with love and compassion, as a servant rather than a master.

Love people even in their sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all of God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand of it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.

—Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

 

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