In this year’s Journey together, we learn about what it means to “Experience Real Life in the Risen Lord.” Our theme comes from John 10:10 where Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
This week, we continue to dig into what it means to experience real life, the abundant life that Jesus’ came to give. We are looking at how our lives are meant to be transformed by the Gospel and this week, we are focusing on how we are transformed for the healing of the world.
Recently, I was reading Missional Renaissance by Reggie McNeal and was reminded that the kingdom of God is much bigger than the church and that God is on a mission to draw all of humanity back to God’s self. He points to this larger mission as he writes about John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
McNeal writes, “Jesus shocked Nicodemus with this statement. The Pharisee would have expected a much different mission of God. “For God so loved the church” would have been his take on it. Imagine the jarring disorientation experienced by the religious leader. First was the assertion that God has a Son, with all its obvious challenges to the radical monotheism central to the core belief of Judaism. Second was Jesus’ declaration that the redemptive mission of God had the world in its crosshairs. For Pharisees like Nicodemus, the kingdom of God was seen as a reward intended for the benefit of God’s people, not as a gift to the world. Church-centric thinking often still mirrors this same myopic and distorted view of God’s missional heart” (30).
What would it look like if we remembered that God is in the business of redeeming the whole world, not just the church? We are God’s partners in this redemptive work, called to join God in healing the world. McNeal describes this calling as blessing the world - and he sees it as the job of the church, not the institution or the building, but the individual Christians who make up the church of Jesus Christ.
“The role of the church is simply this: to bless the world. In doing this, the people of God reveal God’s heart for the world…In that God-initiated covenant [with Abraham in Genesis 12], God didn’t declare to Abraham, ‘I’m going to bless you, just you and people like you.’ Not at all. The point of that blessing was its external focus: ‘I’m going to bless you,’ God said, ‘so you can be a blessing to everyone else.’ That included people not in Abraham’s trib, people not like Abraham, people who didn’t know God or were even looking for him - everybody, period” (46).
“I usually challenge [people] to ‘bless three people this week.’ Then, to drive home a truth, I add, ‘and make sure one of them doesn’t deserve it!’ Of course, none of us deserves it! That’s the good news of the Good News - that we get the undeserved blessings of God. We don’t own the blessings of God, and we sure don’t get to decide who deserves them. The clear biblical teaching is that God blesses everyone because that’s just who he is and what he likes to do” (47).
One suggestion that McNeal has is to ask those you meet, “How can I ask God to bless you?” He has had people use this with baristas and servers, store clerks and mechanics, anyone who you meet in your daily life. He specifically suggests this question as a way to leave room for a spiritual conversation. Then, depending on the situation, you could pray for that person there or on your own.
McNeal continues, “To practice the blessing life, you will need to believe God, not just believe in God. There’s a huge difference between the two. Abraham didn’t just believe in God; he believed God - he staked his life on what God said. We have to believe that God has the ability to draw people to himself through these blessing encounters. We must have the conviction that God is always at work in the lives of people (even if they don’t recognize it) and will continue to be. We have to believe God enough to put him on the line, trusting him to show up and show off in their lives. I think God is waiting on us to do just that” (49)!
How are you called to heal the world? This is a big question, but perhaps a small step would be to decide to bless three people this week.
In the abiding hope of the Risen Lord,