The Stench of Injustice and the Power of Community

In Deut. 23:13, God gives the Israelites specific instructions about human waste. “Toilets” were to be located outside the camp, and waste was to be covered up immediately. The “why” for this command seems obvious:  to not do so would lead to a horrible stench and to the threat of disease.

Right after this, in Deut. 23:14 the Bible says, “Since the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy; and He must not see anything indecent among you or He will turn away from you.”

Now, the idea here is not that human waste is sinful but that it is potentially destructive to the whole community if not taken care of immediately. Today we know this to be true. Human waste can contaminate water or food supplies and cause Cholera, and indeed, it often does in areas affected by war or disaster.

And what’s interesting is that right after these instructions about toilets, the writer talks about the fact that there are other things that can have the same effect. And so God begins to give the Israelites instructions that forbid turning in an escaped slave, that forbid prostitution, and that forbid charging interest on loans to fellow Israelites (Deut. 23:15-19).

What connects all of these things is that all of them were capable of bringing disease into the camp—either physical disease or spiritual disease or both. They were all examples of the way in which one selfish person could bring destruction to the community. You see, if human waste were left lying about the camp, then it would lead to disease and death.  So too with prostitution. It could spread disease throughout the community. If a person charged interest to someone in the community when giving them a loan, then it could create divisions in the community if things didn’t work out and the person became unable to repay.

Another connecting idea in all of these things is the way that selfishness or “me” centeredness lies at the root of them all. The one who refuses to go outside the camp to use the facilities cares only about his own needs. So to does the one who engages in prostitution and the one who makes loans for interest. All of these flow from a focus on ‘me’ to the detriment of ‘us.’

What God desires, though, is that the needs of the community, the oneness and solidarity of the people would trump all of these things – that God’s people would put others first.

Jesus said exactly this on several occasions.

No greater love has a man than that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

Whoever wants to be first must be a slave of all (Mark 10:44).

All of the actions mentioned though, in one way or another, are a threat to the community—the community that God had chosen and was forming to be His agents of blessing in the world (Gen. 12:3). When the community doesn’t function properly, when it becomes divided, then God’s blessings don’t reach their intended target.

So, there is this idea that community is a vital aspect of what God wants to do in the world; and anything that threatens that community threatens God’s purposes. And so for God, evil acts of injustice, rooted in self-centeredness, have the same stench as human waste.

God cannot stand the stench of injustice and selfishness. And too many Christians today are suffering form spiritual Cholera. We have fallen victim to the disease of self-centeredness and lost sight of the importance of community.

The cure is the Spirit of God, who alone can bring unity and peace. This is why Paul begins (or ends) so many of his letters with the words “grace” and “peace.”

As he says in Ephesians, we must be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

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Blessed are the Peacemakers: Rediscovering the Power of Getting Along

It seems these days Christians are anything but unified. And no, this is not a post in which I rail against denominations. Most denominations differ not on the ‘what’ of Christianity, but on the ‘how.’ How are we saved? How does the sovereignty of God relate to human responsibility? How do we understand God’s presence in the Eucharist? And so on. ( Of course, this is not to say that the ‘what’ is not also contentions (especially along the conservative-liberal divide).

But in my view, a far bigger threat to Christian unity than denominations is the general inability of Christians, especially evangelicals, to tolerate, much less actually love as we’re commanded, those who differ from us.

I mean, what do we think Jesus meant when He said, “blessed are the peacemakers?”

Many evangelicals tend to interpret passages like this to refer merely to an internal peace that comes from being reconciled with God (Rom. 5:10). But if that was Jesus’ sole intention, perhaps He should have said “blessed are the peace-takers.” After all, that kind of peace is not something we achieve; it’s something we receive as a gift.

Now, I should point out that peace in the Bible is primarily a covenantal term. It has to do with the peace that comes from God by virtue of being a child of God. God is, after all, the God of peace (Judges 6:24; Rom. 15:33). But this aspect of God’s nature is meant to be reflected in the character of God’s people. “The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6). This is why Paul begins every one of his letters by reminding the churches that they are recipients and bearers of God’s grace and peace. And it is why Paul says, “so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18).

But this quality of the church is rarely seen today. Not only are we not at peace, we often the cause and source of conflict. Christians are deeply divided on everything from politics to entertainment. The problem though is not so much the disagreements as it is the inability to discuss those differences in a kind and civil manner. We have lost the art of civil discourse.

Because of this, there is a tremendous need for the church to rediscover the force of God’s instructions regarding peace, and to learn how to disagree in respectful ways. And I think there are a couple of things we do to accomplish that:

  1. Get to know people personally before you challenge their views. Too often these days we’ve become accustomed to hurling our opinions like rockets into the stratosphere, via the launch pads of Facebook and Twitter, and letting them strike what or who they may.

I have a good friend that I meet with on a regular basis, and theologically, we’re pretty far apart. He’s a Calvinist and I’m an Arminian; He’s a cessationist and I’m charismatic. When we get together we discuss lots of things, from theology to our children, to the challenges of being a missionary, and so on. But we’ve never had a fight or argument, even though we disagree about lots of things. But we can discuss these things without it dissolving into conflict because we care too much about the friendship to let that happen.

  1. Be humble and open to learning new things. You can never have meaningful dialogue with someone who has a different view than you do, if you remain convinced that you have all the correct answers and the other person only needs to listen to you and learn. Learning is a two-way street. We are all broken and flawed people, and we all “see through a glass dimly.” Together, when we’re willing to learn from each other, we all come to see a little more clearly.

The real challenge with this is that we’re often afraid that if we admit to even a small crack in our worldview, then the whole thing will come crashing down, and we can’t allow that because we’ve built too much of our life around that worldview. But all of us are victims of worldviews that have a myriad of influences, some that we are aware of and some that we are not, some that are holy and some that are downright demonic. And because we are so embedded in these worldviews, because we have carried them around for decades,  we can’t escape them unless someone from the outside helps us see the cracks and leaks. This is the essence of community; we come together as mutually broken people and we depart having been made better by the clarity that comes through diversity.

What if, before we argued with someone over politics or theology, we took them out to lunch and got to know them? What might our conversations with each other, and thereby our testimony before the world, look like if we cared more about each other than we cared about being right? We who have received the undeserved peace of God, who have been reconciled to a holy God even when we were rife with sin and rebellion, should understand this better than anyone.

And as we sit down with those with whom we have deep disagreements, wee might just find that we have more in common than we think.

Why I don’t like going to church: Confessions of a Theologian, Part I

I’m a theologian. The study of the Bible and the nature of the Church lie at the very heart of everything that I do and hold dear. Yet, honestly, I sometimes don’t like going to church. I’d rather just stay at home, and here’s why.

First, for a theologian, attending church can be mentally exhausting. It’s my nature (and indeed the way God has wired me) to critically analyze most things. I used to feel terribly guilty about this, until one day a fellow theologian counseled me saying, “you just have to realize that this is the way its going to be for you for the rest of your life. It’s not a bad thing. It’s simply part of your calling and you just have to discover how to manage it with grace.” Since then I’ve tried to live by those words and it has helped tremendously. But still, sometimes I just don’t feel like being gracious and would rather just stay at home.

And then there’s the people.

Churchy people can be especially difficult to handle sometimes. For example, every church seems to have that one lady who lives on Planet Jesus and who believes that every one of life’s challenges can be overcome with a simple cliché and a clack of the tambourine. “You just gotta keep praisin’ brother!” Clack-ity-clack.

But when I think about these things in light of the Gospel, I’m reminded of the real reason I sometimes don’t like going to church. All of these things, the parts of the sermon or parts of the worship service which I wish were different, the people whom I wish I could change and make them someone other than who they are, all point to one thing. They all point to the reality of my own sinfulness. They declare with a load voice that I, the theologian who has made a career out of studying the Bible, have yet to fully abide by its most central precept. Namely, “you shall love the lord your god with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27; Rom. 13:9; Gal. 5:14; Jas. 2:8).

In other words, everything I don’t like about church is in reality a reflection of my own self-centeredness. In fact, the word “like” itself suggests that I tend to see church as existing primarily to meet my needs. My lack of grace toward the tambourine lady flows from the fact that I’ve never really tried to get to know the tambourine lady and understand what makes her tick. To put it simply, I’ve never really loved her as I love myself. My dissatisfaction with the music or with the sermon, though sometimes might reflect real issues that need to be addressed, more often testify to the fact that I came to church not to serve, but to be served. Odd behavior, to say the least, for one who follows Him whose whole life was described in exactly opposite terms (Matt. 20:28).

In short, all the reasons that I sometimes don’t like going to church declare with a loud voice that I absolutely need to be there. They declare that I need to continue to grow in the grace of loving others and bearing with them in their struggles. I need to discover and rediscover and discover all over again that Christian community is not just about getting fed (thought it is about that). But there comes a time when we have to stop bellying up to the banquet table and instead find our way to the kitchen, and begin to labor for the nourishment and strengthening of others.

The more I do this, the more I find that church can be infinitely rewarding.

 

Cathedrals, Christianity, and the Survivability of the Church

Yesterday my wife and daughter and I visited Chartres Cathedral, just outside of Paris. The Cathedral is perhaps the world’s greatest surviving example of medieval Gothic architecture, primarily because it remains much the way it was in the 13th century, including having the original stained glass windows, which are nothing short of stunning![1]

chartres_2

These amazing works of art (and indeed, the Cathedral itself is a masterpiece), incredibly survived not only the French Revolution but WWII as well, despite all odds. The story of how the Cathedral survived WWII is especially fascinating.

When Allied Forces decided to bomb the cathedral on the suspicion that it might be occupied by German troops, an American colonel by the name of Welborn Griffith challenged the order, and volunteered instead to cross the front lines and investigate to see if Germans were actually holed up in the church. His request was approved, and after making his way to the cathedral, he discovered indeed that there were no Germans. As a result, Chartres Cathedral was saved from total destruction. Unfortunately, Griffith was killed a few days later in the fighting to liberate the town of Chartres.[2]

chartres_

Commonly, parallels are drawn between the great churches of Europe and the decline of Christianity there, and the general tendency is to criticize Catholicism for having built enduring buildings but no lasting churches.

Our trip to Chartres though had a different effect on me. Instead, what I saw in this magnificent Cathedral is rather a symbol of the survivability of the Church. God, working through frail and imperfect human agents, like Colonel Griffith, will ensure the survival of His Church. After all, He promised as much when He said the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18).

And so as we walked around Chartres, taking in its incredible beauty and history, I found myself reminded that the Church will survive the moral decline of western cultures and the propensity of men for war. It will survive terrorism and it will survive revolutions. And most incredibly, it will even survive the theological differences among its members.

[1] See for example http://www.sacred-destinations.com/france/chartres-cathedral.

[2] Story here: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/266849/colonel-chartres-jay-nordlinger.

Our Communalized Life in Christ

Paul writes in Galatians, “The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him. (Gal. 6:6).

 The word ‘share’ here in Greek is koinōneō–a verb derived from the noun koinonia. Given Paul’s usage and uniquely Christian appropriation of the word koinōnia as the community of God’s people formed in relationship with Christ by the indwelling presence of God’s Spirit, the word “share” doesn’t seem to quite do justice to what Paul is getting at. “Share” is probably the best English translation, which also seems to highlight the inadequacy of English for certain concepts. When I read this passage in the context of Paul’s usage of this word throughout his writings, wherein he often talks about things like Gentiles sharing in the spiritual heritage of Israel (Rom. 15:27), sharing in the body and blood of Christ through the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 10), churches sharing in his sufferings (2 Cor. 1:7), and likewise sharing in the grace of giving and receiving concerning those in need (Phil. 4:15), or sharing in the responsibility of appointing faithful leaders (1 Tim. 5:22), it becomes apparent that for Paul koinōnia relates to the fellowship one has with Christ by the Holy Spirit as an entire lifestyle and attitude. The difference then between Christian fellowship that calls for the sharing of resources and socialistic ideas of common property is that it’s not the things that we share primarily in Christianity that are central, rather its ourselves. We are to “communalize” our very lives because of the undeserved inclusion we’ve found in Christ and the indwelling presence of God’s Spirit, that leads us to fulfill kingdom purposes.

Traveling, Sight-seeing, Experimenting Missionaries!

In the Oct. 1912 edition of his Word and Witness, E. N. Bell took some of his church’s supported missionaries to task for their, um, methods. Here’s what he wrote:

Our people are tired, sick, and ashamed of traveling, sight-seeing, experimenting missionaries who expect to make a trip around the world and come home. We are not willing to waste a cent of God’s money on such. It is all right when necessary on account of serious illness or to stir up new interest by a visit to come home; but only to return soon. We want missionaries who go out to live and die on foreign fields. It is as near to heaven from there as anywhere, and if you don’t think so, don’t go. ~ E. N. Bell, Word and Witness, 8 no. 8 (Sept. 1912), 2.

Wow! I wonder how that would go over if it were to come from the Executive Director of AG World Missions today! (By the way, not long after this, E. N. Bell stepped down as the one handling missions support!).

Common Objections to Compassionate Ministry

There are a few, often repeated objections that tend to come up in almost any discussion of social justice or compassionate ministry. Here, I’ve tried to compile answers to what I think are the most common accusations made. My goal is to simply show that many objections lack either a biblical or historic basis. I look forward to your comments. Click  here for the pdf: common objections to compassion ministry

Is Priority the Right Question? Part III: Conclusion

“What we do when we weed a field is not quite different from what we do when we pray for a good harvest.” – C. S. Lewis.

In the above quote, I think C. S. Lewis is getting at much the same point I have been making throughout these last three blog posts: namely, that we are mistaken when we unnaturally separate that which God has put together. Life is holistic and God calls us to a fully integrated life that incarnates all that He himself embodied during His earthly ministry.

There is much more evidence than what I have presented in support of this point. I could have, for instance, shown that in Scripture the words in both the OT and NT that are used for ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ are often used to mean the whole person, as are the words for ‘flesh’ and body.’  There are nuances and the two are not the same, to be sure. But we have to be careful that we don’t read into these words ideas that never existed in the mind of the writers. In addition, I might have pointed out that Paul had every opportunity to adopt a Platonic separation of the body and soul, and yet he never did. This doesn’t mean that he or Jesus never distinguished between the two, for surely they did. But what they didn’t do was elevate one above the other. I could have also shown how it has been largely philosophical systems, such as that of Plato and Aristotle and their influences on Augustine and Aquinas respectively, that have greatly influenced our theological tendency to exalt one aspect of the human self over the other. I could have given evidence that Christianity, following in the footsteps of the Enlightenment, has come to embody many of the precepts of modernity, precepts that furthered the chasm between the secular and sacred. But my aim, has not been to overwhelm anyone with evidence, but rather to simply help us to see that this holistic notion is in Scripture, and it is there in a pretty major way!

I also want to pause, and point out that this has been a journey for me. It is not something I have arrived at casually or, in some ways, even intentionally. In the course of studying other things (eschatology and church history, for instance) I have sort of stumbled across these things, and then as a result of what I found (more accurately, what others have found and written), I’ve felt compelled to look into this a little deeper. As a result, I am increasingly convinced that the biblical picture is holistic, that when Jesus said, “whatever you did not do to the least of these, you did not do to me,” that he was saying something of extreme importance for the Church about the external aspects of our faith, about the integration of faith and acts of service.

The thing is, and this may surprise you, but my own calling and gifts lie mostly on the proclamation/evangelism side of things. I am primarily a teacher/preacher with a deep interest in theology and apologetics (could you tell?). Those passages of Scripture that most resonate with me are those that show Paul using ‘persuasion’ and presenting arguments and evidence that help convince people of the truth of Christianity (see Acts 17:4; 18:4; 19:8). And yet, that said, I am convinced by Scripture that if my whole ministry, my entire Christian calling consists of nothing more than standing in a classroom and teaching, or sitting behind a computer reflecting on theological meanings, or even standing behind a pulpit on Sunday morning speaking to the mostly already convinced, if my Christian life never gets out into the byways, highways, and alleyways where the broken, the lost and the suffering live and struggle everyday, and if I don’t meet them there with the love of Christ, tending to them in body and soul, then I’ve missed something. I’ve come up short of what Jesus has called me to do. Because all theology is ultimately practical, and all of our faith must ultimately find its way to our hands and our feet, not just to our hearts and heads.

Even as I write this, I recognize how far away I am from this holistic biblical picture at times, and I am convicted. But, my prayer in all of this is that we would all take seriously these emphases in Scripture as we plot our course forward, that we might embody a faith in which preaching the good news and compassionate acts of service become as two cords twisted indubitably together, exhibiting a strength that neither aspect could ever have on its own. May we embody a Gospel faith, a loving and compassionate faith, a proclaiming faith, a teaching faith, a building faith, and in everything a serving faith. So that when the Lord of the harvest returns He’ll find us, as was He, always about His Father’s business.

Is Priority the Right Question? Part II: The Biblical Concept of Justice

Introduction

Justice. It is a word that often grates against our western, republican sensibilities. As a friend said to me once, “it smacks of entitlement.” Indeed it does. The word ‘justice’ in American parlance often drags around the ball and chain of socialist connotations. As a result, we are inclined to reject the concept outright. After all, we in the AG are Arminians (mostly). We believe in free will and the power to choose. We believe in the ability to pull one’s self up by the bootstraps, whether one actually has boots or not.

It’s important that when we talk about biblical justice that we don’t allow our politics obscure what God says to us through Scripture. The justice of God is a major emphasis in Scripture, stressing that God’s plan for humanity includes the righting of wrongs, the overturning of inequality, and the championing of the disadvantaged (see Part I). Why? Simply stated, because just-ness is an inherent aspect of God’s character. Thus, if God is to be consistent with His character then He must hate injustice. And to hate something and do nothing about it would smack of hypocrisy. And God is no hypocrite.

What in the World is God Doing?

To understand God’s justice and how it fits into who we are and what we do as the Church it is essential to understand what it is that God is doing in the world. Scripture gives us several important keys by which to discern the answer to this question. We discover one of these keys by considering what precisely it was that Jesus and His earliest followers actually preached.

Frequently, the NT defines “preaching” in relation to the coming of the Kingdom. Luke 4:18 can be seen in many ways as Jesus’ own mission statement, and as a description of what the coming Kingdom looks like:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has appointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed. (NASB)

As Pentecostals who so frequently make use of Luke-Acts, it would serve us well to pay close attention to Jesus’ stated purpose since in Luke’s two-volume work the purpose of the Church ought to naturally follow the mission set forth by Jesus. Lest we try to spiritualize this text, as we are so apt to do with those portions of Scripture that unsettle us in their most obvious, literal reading, a look back at the Isaianic passage being quoted sheds important light on what exactly Jesus is saying.

The OT passage that Jesus is quoting here is Isaiah 61, a text reflecting the Year of Jubilee (Lev. 25). The Year of Jubilee represented a Sabbath Year of rest for the nation of Israel and called for treating one another with fairness and equality, especially in forgiving debts, and showing particular care for the poor and the foreign wanderer in the land (going back to my last post on this topic, this also mitigates against an understanding that serving the poor should take place only or even primarily within the church!). It was to be a time of rest and restoration for all God’s people as well as for the land, with the whole of it pointing proleptically forward to the time when God would right all wrongs and restore His creation to its original glory. The idea behind this was the notion that God Himself had redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt, and therefore He owned every person, every parcel of land, and every animal. Deeply rooted in the Year of Jubilee was the notion of God’s desire to redeem His creation from both the physical and spiritual effects of sin (see Rom. 8:22).

Seen in this light, it makes perfect sense that Jesus would quote Isaiah 61 at the outset of his ministry. It was the essence of Jesus’ mission to usher in the Kingdom of God in his person and his work. This Kingdom is both an earthly and a heavenly reality, which is why Jesus instructs his disciples to pray, “your Kingdom come, on EARTH as it is in HEAVEN.” It is both a present and future reality. In other words, the idea is not that God is rescuing us out of a dying world, but is rather transforming this world by renewing and restoring all of creation to its former state of sinlessness and perfection. We see this in that there is a striking parallel between the picture presented of the original creation in Gen. 2:8-15 and that of Rev. 22:1-5:

In the Genesis passage, we see mankind dwelling in a paradise, situated within a garden, and prominently featuring a river and a tree. Connected to the tree was a call to obedience. As we know, this call was abandoned, and rebellion and the curse of sin entered the world (Gen. 3).

Similarly, in the new heavens and new earth of Rev. 21-22, humanity is now dwelling in a city (the primary difference between a garden and a city? Population! Heaven is populated by the redeemed of the Lord.). The city, like the original garden, also features a river and a tree. The river continuously waters the tree, whose leaves were for the healing of the nations. The curse has been lifted.

The point here is that what God is doing is far more than a spiritual work. Its a total work, wherein God is remaking all that exists by removing the effects of sin in all its many forms through the redemptive act of the Suffering Servant. We see this when considering the Greek word for “new”—kainos, which is the same word Paul uses in 2 Cor. 5:17, “if any man is in Christ, he is a new (kainos) creation.” The idea is not of wiping the slate clean, but of renewing, restoring and redeeming; so too with the new heaven and new earth.

I’m not saying that God will not ultimately bring about an entirely new heaven and new earth at the consummation of history. After all, Jesus did say, “heaven and earth will pass away” (Matt. 24:15). I am simply saying that Scripture bears out that the physical world is positively affected and transformed by what God is doing in the present, and that there is some continuity between the present physical world and the world to come. This is obvious in that in Jesus’ own resurrection body bore some continuity to his pre-resurrection body (i.e., his scarred hands, feet and side which prompted Thomas to declare, “my Lord, and my God”). The importance of this is that our life in Christ has both physical and spiritual significance, because we participate physically and spiritually in God’s redemptive plan.

Paul consistently portrays this throughout the NT. For instance, in Romans 8:22-23, Paul says, “the whole creation groans….and not only this, but even we ourselves groan within ourselves while we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, for the redemption of our bodies.” Notice Paul doesn’t say we wait for the redemption of our souls! He makes this same point in Phil. 3:21—“who will transform the body of our humble state, into conformity with the body of his glory.” In 1 Cor. 15, Paul uses a couple of metaphors, such as that of seedtime and harvest that also bear out this idea of continuity and transformation.

What in the World are We Saying?

Jesus’ instructions on preaching often took two distinct forms in the NT. At times, Jesus instructs his followers to preach the “Gospel,” or “good news” (Gr. euggelion). But this “good news” is also defined more precisely as the “gospel of the Kingdom” (Matt. 24:14; Acts 8:12; 20:25; 28:31). What is the significance of this distinction? It is simply that the good news to which the Church is called to proclaim is the good news of Christ’s rule and reign. The biblical concept of justice is rooted in the fact that this rule and reign is founded upon God’s plan to restore creation and right all wrongs, to especially overturn the misfortunes of the poor and needy. In a sense we are all poor and needy, due to the effects of sin, but there are those among us who are poor and needy in both body and soul, and it is for those that God shows special concern.

We see this in the Psalmists declaration that “justice and righteousness are the foundations of His throne” (Ps. 89:14; 97:2). The words justice (Hb. mishpat) and righteousness (Hb. tzedeqah) are twin concepts found throughout scripture that tell of God’s passion and concern for those who suffer at the hands of others, those who are poor and needy (see Gen 18:19; 2 Sam 8:15; 1 Kings 10:9; 1 Chr 18:14; 2 Chr 9:8; Job 29:14; 37:23; Psa 33:5; 72:2; 89:14; 97:2; 99:4; 119:121; Prov 1:3; 2:9; 21:3; Eccl 3:16; 5:8; Is 1:27; 5:7; 9:7; 16:5; 28:17; 32:16; 33:5; 56:1; 59:9, 14; Jer 4:2; 9:24; 22:3, 13, 15; 23:5; 33:15; Ezek 18:5, 19, 21, 27; 33:14, 16, 19; 45:9; Hos 2:19; Amos 5:7, 24; 6:12; Mic 7:9). When Scripture says that these concepts are “the foundation of His throne,” it is saying that they are the chief characteristic of God’s rule.

So, when we declare the gospel of the Kingdom, we are declaring the good news of Christ’s reign and sovereignty, and the justice and righteousness entailed therein. At the heart of that reign is God’s own righteousness and inherent justice, which he brings in His person. This is the meaning of Jesus’ Luke 4 reading of Isa. 61. It is a reign that begins in the present, that broke in especially at the resurrection of Christ, and is unfolding through God’s sovereignty and through God’s people as history moves toward the time when God will ultimately make all things right and fully reign in the new heaven and new earth. Thus, the Gospel we preach has both a physical and spiritual nature because it addresses both physical and spiritual realities. To miss this is to misunderstand what God is doing in the world, and to miss what we are called to do as a result.

Conclusion

We as God’s people are called upon not only to preach the Gospel but to emulate Jesus in every way. “Come, follow me” still stands as the beckon call for would-be disciples. As such, we are to embody all that Jesus taught and did. At the heart of Jesus’ own ministry was the breaking in of God’s rule and reign, founded upon righteousness and justice of God, promised in the OT, and declared emphatically by Jesus to be the very essence and heart of His own life and ministry. Therefore, everything we do in Christ, whether it embodies the present reign of Christ through signs and wonders, or whether it points forward to that reign in acts of righteousness and justice carried out in the world, is meant to anticipate the final Day when God will make all things right. In a sense, we Pentecostals seem to understand this more than some, for we hold that the atonement of Christ wrought not only healing for our souls, but also healing for our bodies. And yet, oddly, we still seek to establish a hierarchy when it comes to discussions of evangelism and acts of compassion. My point in all of this is that this hierarchy is largely absent from Scripture. Instead, we see a God whose rule and reign and coming Kingdom encompasses all of creation in both its seen and unseen aspects, in both body and soul, physical and spiritual, present and future. God declared of creation in the beginning that, “it is good.” Well, though a bit damaged and corrupted, this creation of God’s is still good and worth saving, for God is still great and what he calls us to is a life that anticipates and embodies all that He is doing in us and in the world as we move inexorably toward the consummation of all things. And so we go forth preaching and embodying the Kingdom, proclaiming the good news of God’s justice and righteousness, and living out the Kingdom paradigm in Pentecostal power and in practical acts of love and service until our enemy the devil is finally and fully defeated. To proclaim this ‘good news’ and not live it out is to implicitly deny what we ask others to believe. No more than we can separate Jesus from his words can we separate the Gospel from its implications. It is, by nature, it is at its core, completely holistic.

*for any wishing to further explore this topic, I recommend two excellent resources: Tim Keller’s Generous Justice, and N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope.