Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Our Missional God 15

Chris Wright’s The Mission of God brings together his life of thinking, and chp 11 of this book ties together his thinking about election, redemption and covenant and how each gives rise to “mission.” In this chp he focuses on ethics and how each of the above themes has an ethical dimension. We’ve got a big question for today.
How significant is how Christians live for mission? In your view, what biblical texts or what theological ideas are most significant to understand/live in order to answer this question? How significant is credibility? How significant, in other words, is authenticity?
He begins with election which he earlier has clarified as “election to mission” rather than just “election to salvation.” (This for him is not an either/or.) And here he focuses on Genesis 18:18-19:


Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.?

Election leads to ethics, and ethics forms the foundation for mission. The ethical quality of the people of God is the vital link between their calling and their mission — this is a theme that I have heard constantly in the emerging movement. It is not the first to say so; it will not be the last to say so; but it knows the significance of ethics for the viability of mission.
Second, he dips into Exodus 19 for the connection of mission ethics and redemption. And here Wright turns to Exodus 19:4-6 (I add v. 3):


3 Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, ?This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 4 ?You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.? These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.?

Here God’s redemption from Egypt — the Exodus — forms Israel into a people of God who are given the Torah so they can become — as a Torah-covenanted and redeemed people — a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Israel is not chosen to be better, to be separate, but to be holy unto mission. Wright points us to Leviticus 19 to see what holiness is all about.
Third, he connects the missional ethic with covenant. He turns to Deuteronomy 4, a chp for which he offers an exceptional survey (and clever structure) and reveals how often the nations appear, and then he narrows it all down to Deut 4:6-8:


6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ?Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.? 7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?

Once again: election leads to a holy people whose very life is missional. Law obedience is not for self-congratulation; it is not for separation and comparison to the sins of others; it is a God-drenched dripping of grace that creates a people that draws attention to the presence of God and redemption.

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Brian McL

posted September 10, 2008 at 7:29 am

Scot knows 1 Peter better than I ever will, but there seems to be a lot of connection between election, ethics/holiness, and living in the world “among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” in 1 Peter 2:4-12. This strikes me as a significant book on this topic.

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John L

posted September 10, 2008 at 8:02 am

“…missional…is a God-drenched dripping of grace that creates a people that draws attention to the presence of God and redemption.”

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posted September 10, 2008 at 8:18 am

I haven’t read Wright’s book as thoroughly as I’d like: I’m getting there! But, my initial impression of this chapter reminds me of the oft-made observation of the letters of Paul, which is that you rarely observe Paul telling the churches to “evangelize”. Instead, there is a persistent summons to a context-specific ethic or task that flows from the election of God through Christ by the Spirit. Consequently, if the people of God get on with living as informed by Scripture and guided by the Spirit, “the others/neighbors” will take stock of this ala Deut. 4:6, and inquire regarding the God of these people.
Is this correspondence real, or too thin to sustain? Your thoughts?

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posted September 10, 2008 at 8:27 am

Well, I’m on the “very significant” end of the spectrum re: the question of the importance of ethics (and it troubles me greatly every day!). Jesus doesn’t just teach love (and the epistles also emphasize this teaching), he defines it through his actions and gives the strength for it through what he says the Father will do for us in this life and through the assurance of resurrection. So his teachings and his manner of living, and his death and resurrection all “teach” the kind of love from God we can trust, and the kind he expect us to practice. (Ouch!)
On the whole, I think we tend to discount the missional power and intent of the “love your enemies, give to them” ethic, and how strongly it demonstrates all the things we want people to know about the Father, about Jesus, about death and resurrection, about money, power, etc. In the “love your enemies” ethic, of course, Jesus is talking about our flesh and blood enemies–the people who serve different agendas and trust something other than God (and then run into us while thinking this way). Jesus teaches us to not resist such persons, to give them our money, our clothes, even our flesh if they ask for it or take some of it. Why? Essentially its the same brilliance of the cross that drew us all to Jesus. This is how God overcomes evil in humanity and turns enemies into loyal friends: Show hostile people that you are totally not afraid of them, that you have more than enough in God regardless what they take. Show them they are trusting and seeking the worthless things. Show them that you trust that God’s provison is bigger than their theft can be; that resurrection trumps fear of violence. Kindness to enemies says all this and more.
Our trust in the Father’s power and care in this world and in our resurrection is intended to fuel this practice and thereby work to transform our ‘enemies’ into friends, just like he did with us.

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Scot McKnight

posted September 10, 2008 at 8:38 am

Mike et al,
A scholar named Dickson wrote a book a few years back arguing that Paul did not exhort lay folks to evangelism, and the evidence tips in his favor though I’m not convinced it is uniformly clear nor am I convinced Paul had to say things like that … thinking it was perhaps done by ordinaries anyway.
And, yes, Paul and Peter both have a deep focus on a life that compels.

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posted September 10, 2008 at 9:26 am

Matt 28:18-20 / Romans 8:28-39; 10:14-15
Election – God has ordained the “end”, but God has also ordained the means.
“How significant is how Christians live for mission?”
I think it’s significant…but before that can be addressed the question needs to be asked “Why do you live for mission?” The “why” will directly influence the “how.”
If I think that I live for “mission” so that people will be saved by the way I live, I can become easily discouraged when people hate me, because they hated Christ. It will then be easier for me to “adjust” my beliefs to make the scripture less offensive.
If, on the other hand, I live for “mission” because I love Christ, He commanded that I “go and make disciples”, and because I love Him I want to keep His commandments, then regardless of the outcome, I can rejoice in knowing that I’m doing what Christ wants me to do. And I can also be confident that the majority of people will not understand, and perhaps even hate me because of Christ. That being said, I’m reminded of advice given by my father: “My bad breath is not the offense of the gospel.” In other words, regardless of the outcome, I’m still to “love my enemies.”

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Travis Greene

posted September 10, 2008 at 12:31 pm

“I?m not convinced it is uniformly clear nor am I convinced Paul had to say things like that ? thinking it was perhaps done by ordinaries anyway.”
Scot, what did you mean by this? That Paul didn’t have to tell people to evangelize because he assumed that they did and he didn’t have to tell them to? Are “ordinaries” lay Christians?

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Scot McKnight

posted September 10, 2008 at 12:44 pm

I’m trying to recall the thesis of Dickson, who argued that Paul did not urge lay folks (yes, I was using “ordinaries” in contrast to apostles and evangelists) to evangelise. My own take is that just because Paul doesn’t urge this, and there are some texts that can be used to counter the thesis, doesn’t mean they weren’t doing it anyway.

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posted September 11, 2008 at 12:53 am

I’ve yet to meet anyone who hates me because I love and follow Christ. I’ve met people who hate religion but I’ve never known anyone to express a hatred of Christ or me. Oh, a few people’s eye might glaze over when I talk about my faith and a few may talk to me in a gently patronizing way – but hate, that’s a pretty strong word. And very few of the people I know are Christian. Perhaps I lead a more sheltered life than I imagine. What country do you live in?

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posted September 11, 2008 at 1:30 am

as for an answer. Well, I come from a Wesleyan/Holiness background so I’m sure you can assume my answer. PARAMOUNT! It is of the utmost significance. Also, my studies in the Scriptures have led me to believe that (and maybe you were somewhat hinting at this?) Paul did not necessarily urge layfolk to evangelism because the life of Christ is by nature Evangelistic. If our goal as disciples of Christ is to be conformed into his likeness, to follow his example, to be filled with his spirit so much so that it is “no longer I that live but Christ who lives in me.” If that is our goal, isn’t that also in effect our mission? If we live a life that is Holy, separate, and overflowing with love, mercy, and justice… wouldn’t that not only heal the injustices of our world around it, but incite others to join in?
I say all this again from a Wesleyan/Holiness perspective. To me the hope of the Gospel is/was that we don’t have to wait for heaven, we can experience it in life with Christ through his Holy spirit, producing (hopefully/eventually) complete freedom from the bondage of sin. If we are living such a life, and thus living a life which frees others from bondage… wouldn’t that make them want to not only be free from sin, but also free others?
I propose that the big question isn’t “how important is how we live to mission” but “can we do mission aside from how we live?”
I will provide some biblical texts soon, i just got back from the Sox game and need to go to bed.

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posted September 11, 2008 at 12:29 pm

“If we live a life that is Holy, separate, and overflowing with love, mercy, and justice? wouldn?t that not only heal the injustices of our world around it, but incite others to join in?”
I’m with you Ben. Living a Christ-like life is the mission. God grant me the strength to live a life that reflects, however dimly, the light of Christ.

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