Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Fitch and Holsclaw (2) Mission of God

The second signpost introduced by Fitch and Holsclaw is the Mission of God. Christians tend to convey God in two different ways, neither helpful.

The common view is that the Christian God is all-powerful, but distant. This makes him see cruel to many people.

The pendulum is now swinging from a distant remote God, to one who is everywhere.

The problem is that if God is everywhere, then God is nowhere.
Fitch and Holsclaw push a different way; God is on a mission. They portray God as always actively breaking into the world.
We should think of God as the one who invaded the world in the Son. We should live as if God has remained active in the world through the Spirit.

God is always drawing near, entering in, walking beside the world in all its distress and uncertainty, in all its poverty and depravity.

If the Triune God is already in mission, then I need to see the worlds in which I regularly walk as the arenas of the Sprit-places imbued with the presence of God.
This changes the nature of prayer. Fitch stopped praying for opportunities to witness, and prayed that he would see what God is doing and know what to do to help.
God is already working there in each person’s life. Just pray that you will have eyes to see what God is doing so you can participate with a work or a prayer, with laughter, or a tear.
This is good stuff, but I characterise the situation differently.

This is our world.

God made it and gave it to us, so it is our world. We decide who comes in and what goes down. Right at the beginning, we made a huge mistake, and let the spiritual powers of evil into the world and they created a huge mess. They tricked us into submitting to them and se we have not been able to get rid of them to clean up the mess.

More importantly, despite Jesus death on the cross and the outpouring of the Spirit, God has mostly been shut out of our world. For most of history he has struggled to break in and put things right, because we have not given him permission.

Presenting God as the one who is constantly breaking into the world to put things right is misleading. He might want to do that, but he has not been able to do it. The problem with the mission of God is that if he is always breaking in, he should have sorted it out by now, but clearly has not. The mess remains. The reason is simple. The idea of God on a mission to the world reflects his heart, but not reality. God might want to break into the world and put things right, but he has not been able to get permission the permission he needs. God has always been desiring to break into the world, but he has not been allowed.

Rather than characterising God as being on a mission to the world, I would describe him as a God who has been struggling to obtain permission to be active in the world (see Gods Big Strategy).

This is our world. God can only enter into it when we invite him. History is actually the story of God looking for a way to break back into the world to put it right. He has spent most of history seeking a people to work through and place to work in. Most of the time he has been constrained. Getting a nation of people with a land to work through was a huge step. Sending the Holy Spirit to live in the body of Jesus was another big step forward. But even in the church age, God can only act in the world when people invite him into situations where they have authority to decide who can enter, but invitations have been surprisingly sparse and limited in scope.

This changes the nature of prayer. When we pray it is good to look for what the Spirit is doing in the world, so we can join him. We should also be looking to see where the forces of evil are at work, so we can join with him to resist them. More important we should be listening to the Holy Spirit to find out what he wants to do and where, so we can give can invite him to do it. Our prayers give the Holy Spirit the authority that he needs to be active in the world. The more active our prayer and the broader the scope, the more freedom he will have to put the world right (see more on this at Prayer and Authority).

Understandings God’s desire to break in should also change the way that we live. The Holy Spirit wants to go into the world, but he can only go there if the people he dwells in will carry with them. If we hide in our huddles, he is shut way from the world that he loves. To be active in the world, the Holy Spirit needs us to carry him into all the places where people are living, working and struggling. That means that we must be active where he wants to work.

1 comment:

Maria Kirby said...

God is always working things out for good regardless of our cooperation or not because he is a good god. If we cooperate then we get included in the good outcome.