What does it mean to follow Jesus?
Each day the world news headlines are dominated by images of suffering, violence and oppression. We deal with pain and loneliness in our own lives and those around us. Most of us are not happy with this situation and we ache for a better world. This ache speaks of a desire for something more. Just like hunger points to food and thirst points to water so our ache for a better world means that a better world once existed or will one day exist.
In the Christian worldview, God created a good, wonderful world. Everything was right with everything else.
Design for the world. On a bigger level, creation was designed to benefit us and we were designed to take care of creation. We were made to be interdependent with each other. (Genesis 2:15; 2:25).
Design for each other. On a relational level, people were designed to take care of each other. They were made in true community, with the freedom to love and be loved, to serve and be served, to be themselves without shame in front of each other (Genesis 2:25).
Design for a relationship with God. On a personal level, we were designed to be in a relationship with God, one full of love and intimacy. God hung out with us, and we enjoyed being with him. We were meant to love and bless each other as well (Genesis 3:9).
The world and all that was in it was designed for good. But what happened to this good world? How did we get to where we are today?
When God was in charge, we had a wonderful world. But we wanted to be in charge so that all of it - creation and everyone in it - could be used for our own benefit instead of God's intended design and purpose of serving each other. It became all about us. God calls this sin.
In choosing to 'go it alone' and live independently of God we have been damaged by evil, and in turn damage ourselves, others and the world around us.
Damaging the world. On a bigger level we damaged creation. We're part of a system that drains the planet for its oil and fills the air with pollutants so we can have a comfortable lifestyle. Entire species and ecosystems are threatened with extinction. In place of contentment, and gratitude to God for his good gifts, we pursue ever-increasing consumption, further degrading God's good creation, escalating present injustice and oppression, and threatening the viability of life for future generations. (Genesis 3:14-19; Ezekiel 16:49; Amos 5:4-15; Romans 1:20-25; Ephesians 6:12).
Damaging each other. On a relational level, we damage each other and others hurt us - whether we mean to or not. When we live for ourselves it's easy to take and gain without regard for other people. Issues such as racism, sexism, slavery, corruption, injustice and oppression continue to damage our relationships with one another, and violate the dignity God intends for every person. (Genesis 3:12:13; Romans 1:18-31).
Damaging our relationship with God. On a personal level we have damaged our soul and our relationship with God. We're afraid of God now, and in our fear we try to ignore him and live for ourselves. Therefore we work against God's designs. But we only hurt ourselves and we can and will never be the kind of people we want and dream of being (Genesis 3:10; Romans 1:18-31).
RESTORED FOR BETTER
But God loves the world too much to leave it that way. He came to the planet as Jesus two thousand years ago and started something new. He started a resistance movement against evil, though not with military revolt or communal escapism in mind. Instead, he taught us a better way to live, and gives us the power to overcome the evil around us and in us. He came into the centre of our damage and disease. He loaded all the damage and disease, deliberate and accidental sin, upon himself and died on the cross. But he came back to life, overcoming the disease, and he offers his immunity to us. In Jesus we can be forgiven, and thus overcome the selfishness and damage in us and in our world. He has given us the antidote. In doing so we're all restored for the better.
Restoring the world. On a bigger level, God will restore creation so it can be used in good ways. Racism, sexism, ageism, classism and exploitation of the world's resources died with Christ. All the world's systems - the environment, corporations, government, schools - will then be used to usher in his values of love, peace and justice. Oppression and injustice will cease (Ephesians 2:11-22; Colossians 1:15-20).
Restoring each other. God also restored our relationships so that we can love and forgive each other. Damaged relationships can be healed knowing that Jesus has forgiven us for the ways we've hurt each other and ultimately him (Matthew 6:12; 18:21-35)
Restoring our relationship with God. As much as we need a revolution in the world we need a revolution in our hearts. So God restored our relationship with himself through Jesus death and resurrection. People don't have to live self-centred lives or be afraid of God anymore - we don't have to work against his design. Instead we can have a relationship with God, full of love and intimacy (2 Corinthians 5:11-21; Colossians 3:1-17).
SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Healing our relationship with God. On a personal level we are called to submit to Jesus' leadership and become more like him. We need to become the kind of good we would want to see in the world. So we admit our contribution to the damage on the planet and in our relationships with others and God, and we let Jesus take charge of our lives, putting our trust in him (Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 3:1-17; 1 John 1:9). Jesus leading us helps us become more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, gentle faithful and self-controlled (Galatians 5:22-23).
Healing each other. As we become more like Jesus we are also called to heal relationships, our own and others'. We ask forgiveness and forgive others. Then we're freed to love each other (Matthew 6:12; 18:21-35; 2 Corinthians 5:11-21).
Healing the World. We are called to heal our systems. One day the healing will be made complete. In the meantime, we are called to protect and heal the environment. We are called to fight injustice and oppression together (Genesis 2:15; Exodus 23:1-13; Leviticus 19:9-15; 23:22; 25:1-54; Deuteronomy 15:1-18; Ezekiel 16:49). We go together to heal and are not alone. We go in the power of God's Spirit and with the community of God's people to heal the planet, and to bear witness to the kingdom of God and his righteousness, love, justice and peace (Matthew 28:19-20; John 14:16; Acts 2).
It is only through Jesus' death and resurrection that this is possible. It is through trusting Jesus and letting him take charge that we can become the kind of good we want to see around us.
(Source: Adapted from Choung, J., The True Story, A Christianity Worth Believing In, (IVP, Downers Grove Illinois, 2008)