Engaging God's World
Last week we began a look back at some of my previous posts capturing the Gospel ethos that we are striving after at Christ Church. This week we focus on engaging the world around us.
One of my favorite hymns growing up was This is My Father’s World. For some reason, as a boy I connected with the truths expressed in that hymn, both the beauty of of creation that declares the glory of God, as well as the absolute sovereignty of the Lord over his world. For today I want to think about our Father’s world as the arena in which we begin our response to the Gospel, picking up from last week in our attempt to articulate who we are as a church.
Enlivened by the Gospel, we will Engage God’s world with winsomeness ...
Last week we started with Enlivened be the Gospel with regards to who we are and in turn how that informs how we live. And of course where we live is our Father’s world, this wonderfully created cosmos that shows forth his splendor day by day. As humans we are are the crowning point of his creation, a status that we as Christians share with every other human walking the face of this earth. It is this shared status within our Father’s world that gives shape to the service of the redeemed. First, we are to love the world that he has made. The birds with their carols, the morning light, the lily white, they all declare their maker’s praise. How can we turn our backs on that which God has endowed with such beauty? This comprehensive care for the world is not limited to creation, but also extends to the social systems developed by his image bearers. The care for creation and the development of creation result from the cultural mandate to tend the garden and keep it (Gen. 2:15) and fill the earth and subdue it (Gen.1:26-28). Second, we are to love the crowning point of his creation, namely his image bearers that inhabit his world. There exists within humanity an incredible equality. We all, regardless of our ethnic background, social status, or religious convictions are made in his image. There is no room in our Father’s world for looking down our noses at those who are different than us, either ideologically or ethnically.
If the world is a theatre of our living out the Gospel, what is the manner in which we do so? Two things stand out. First we engage. To engage someone one is to attract their attention or establish a meaningful connection with them. As those ravished by the Gospel, our great desire is to share the good news with those who are not living with the benefit of Gospel resources. Or as others have put it, as beggars who have found bread, we want to share the good news of where to find bread with other beggars. This is the church scattered. At home, at work, in our neighborhoods, community centers, grocery stores, school systems, retirement homes, or wherever God had planted us in his world. We look to engage. We engage informally on our own time and in our own ways. We engage more formally as a church community, inviting, advocating, sharing, always with the Gospel at the center. Secondly, because it is the Gospel that we are engaging the world with, we can always do it with winsomeness. The Gospel is a heart-achingly beautiful story. It is a warm sunrise after a cold night. The Gospel overflows with grace and truth. It is accurate that to some the Gospel preached will be the odor of death (2 Cor. 2:15,16) and that is the message of the Gospel falling on hearts dead set against it, but it is not the manner of our messaging that offends. When it comes to engaging God’s world we must be very careful of being "angry Christians”. A careful reading of scripture reveals that God’s anger is most often reserved for His people who should know better, while a gracious hand is extended to those who are outside of his grace.
And so we build an ethos, one that starts with the Gospel, and then looks to live that Gospel in our Father’s world.
Our journey through Philippians brings us to Chapter 2:1-11 this Sunday. It is the preeminent winsome engagement of the world as Jesus left heaven to take on human form and become obedient to death on a cross. The glory of this Gospel on display.
May God grant us his grace.