In the book of Genesis, we have two brief chapters depicting God’s shalom peace, radiating throughout creation, before the fall. Then comes the introduction of human defiance and disobedience. The remainder of the scriptures then depicts the redemptive narrative of which we are called to be participants.
And, make no mistake about it, we are very much so in the midst of this narrative. The New Testament is essentially a cliffhanger, purposefully inviting humanity to participate in the conclusion of God’s narrative.
That all sounds wonderful, but what exactly does it mean to be participants in a redemptive narrative? That all sounds very abstract, right? I would suggest the opposite is true. In fact, I would suggest our notion of redemption is too abstract or removed and that we, in fact, need to ground this idea in the present. Dallas Willard said this:
“The Gospel is less about how to get into the Kingdom of Heaven after you die, and more about how to live in the Kingdom of Heaven before you die.” Dallas Willard
We unquestionably exhibit a proclivity to focus on “getting there.” This is the fault of bad theology. In reality, God has called us to take up his redemptive mission as Christians in the present, which brings us to the question of Christian vocation.
Let’s look at a typical scenario. You have accepted Jesus Christ as your savior; confessed with your mouth that he is Lord. You feel his healing presence in your life and have unquestionably been saved from your sinful nature.
Now what? Do we just wait around for eternity? Do we kick our feet up and turn on Netflix or Hulu, knowing we are secure in Christ?
It may sound humorous, but in reality, many Christians live their lives in this manner, at best trying to take a few people to heaven when they go. I sincerely believe this is quite the opposite of God’s intent. Rather, if we allow him to work in and through us, we will experience a far more fulfilling calling than simply waiting around for heaven.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus utilizes the parable of the coin in order to illustrate his desire for humanity.
Luke 15: 8 - 10 (NRSV)
“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
In this parable, Jesus relates his desire for everyone to be saved. He is further illustrating his willingness to go into unsavory places in order to find what is lost (us). From a human perspective, this doesn’t always make sense. A lot of us would be happy with 9 coins.
His desire is for everyone to be saved. His love is relentless, unconditional and persistent.
God’s love is reckless, crashing through the silly barriers we often erect, tearing down the excuses we make. His love doesn’t see ethnicity, status, rich or poor, upbringing, gender or past mistakes. His heart is to see every single person saved.
Here’s where our vocation as Christians comes in. Go make disciples! (Matthew 28:18 - 20). That command is universally applicable to every Christ follower and specifically pushes against the “waiting around” notion.
God is asking us to partner with him in his redemptive narrative with the goal of restoring all creation — ushering in shalom peace again. Jesus is inviting us to partner with him in his mission to restore humanity by sharing the good news.
Get this…you don't have to be a pastor.
You don’t have to be a public speaker. You don’t even have to be particularly eloquent. You don’t even have to know all the details! We share Christ on a daily basis through our actions. We show who Jesus is and quietly begin to make disciples by praying for others, showing compassion, through acts of service, and, perhaps most importantly, through building relationships.
In my early twenties, I got a job working with at-risk youth. This is a broad term used to define young people who are likely to fail and become institutionalized. I was stoked about this job. My plan was to tell each kid about Jesus, and I did! The only problem was most of the time it didn't work. For a while, I couldn’t understand why.
What I came to realize was a relationship often needed to precede my explanation of Jesus. I had to build to trust. I had to demonstrate through my actions I was a Christ follower.
I’m not precluding the possibility that someone can spontaneously come to Christ. It happens, and that’s incredible. But often, without a relationship and some credibility, I was just some guy talking about Jesus. When I began to extend kindness, meet real-life needs and show genuine interest in their story without judgment, I started to make progress.
The point I’m getting at is that so often teaching people about Jesus happens in the context of life and relationships.
To circle back around to our Christian vocation, the point is to act now. We are each called to live out this vocation, making disciples right in the midst of our lives. Sometimes we are making disciples without even realizing it! How often have you said to someone, “sit down, I'm going to make you a disciple?” That’s crazy! We most often disciple others through relationships.
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:14 - 16 NRSV
This means our actions, our demeanor, our responses to injustice, arrogance, cruelty, slander, gossip, and violence will resonate as a witness to Jesus right in the context of our everyday lives. Don’t wait!
Remember, God’s heart is to see everyone saved, including you.
Jesus has come to restore all of creation. History is moving toward the renewal of all things, and we have been asked to play a part in this narrative.
Christianity is not a spectator sport! Jesus is inviting us to step into the great commission and make disciples. Don't leave this task to professional clergy, it’s up to each believer to take up their vocation each and every day.
~Guest Post by Jesse Richner