I am blessed beyond measure to have Jeff Clarke write a guest post for Living in the Reign. Jeff enjoys reading, writing and helping others develop a passion to better understand and live out their faith in the world. I’m also a member of The Word Guild and the 2012 winner of the Canadian Christian Writing Award in the category of article-review. As a Blogger, he writes with razor sharp insight, and is definitely not afraid to challenge the status quo.
Read Jeff’s post carefully. I’m sure it will help broaden your view of what it means to live in the Kingdom of God today.
Capturing the Kingdom Ethic of Jesus by Pulling the Future into the Present
It was the apostle Paul who first introduced the New Testament idea of people being made new through the life-giving grace of Jesus Christ. In a number of his correspondences, he chose the phrase ‘new creation’ as a way to capture the essence of Christ’s saving vision for the world.
However, when people think about and attempt to explain what Paul meant by the term ‘new creation,’ the focus primarily centers on salvific concerns that highlight the effects of Christ’s work in us. That is, through Christ, we have been saved from God’s coming wrath and must therefore respond by keeping ourselves pure in order to escape this final judgment.
Unfortunately, our reflections often end there, and as a result, we fail to comprehend the cosmic dimensions associated with the language of ‘new creation.’
The idea of ‘new creation’, when used to describe followers of Christ, is a companion to the cosmic and futuristic ‘new creation’ promised by God. And, while it does have implications for the personal component inherent to salvation, its focus doesn’t end there. In fact, the personal is meant to be a precursor to and a reflection of the cosmic and fulfilled dimension of ‘new creation’ communicated throughout the biblical witness. Unfortunately, we normally embrace the personal dynamic, only to abandon the universal.
Embracing the cosmic focus of ‘new creation’, however, offers us a remedy to our traditional lack of concern – often displayed in much of contemporary evangelicalism – for present earthly realities (i.e., ecological, environmental and social issues). Rather than try to escape this world and launch into the world to come, the promised ‘new creation’ should create the opposite effect; it ought to inform and shape those who have been made new, now.
The future ideal of ‘new creation’ is meant to be pulled into the present.
Ideas that center on notions of escape have no voice in the teachings of Jesus. The salt and light of the Christian’s witness is not to be removed from the present order, but remain within it, effecting positive influence by reflecting tomorrows realities today. God’s kingdom comes to earth in and through those who have been made new and precipitates the promised, future and full kingdom inaugurated by Jesus. We don’t live to escape this world, but seek to find ways to express the realities of the world to come, now.
This captures the kingdom ethic of Jesus. His sermon on the mount is an invitation to live out his kingdom vision in the present. The Spirit enables Christ followers to emulate their leader in such a way that the kingdom brought near in Jesus is to be seen with increasing clarity in and through his followers. This ought to permeate the essence of our communal witness (words and works) to Christ.
Right On the Head
Jeff nails it right on the head. It’s time for all of us to start living out tomorrow’s realities today. Thanks, Jeff, for once again reminding us what life is supposed to look like when we are truly living in the Reign.