God’s mission is about the restoration of Shalom. This is why it is called good news! Gospel.
In our Judeo-Christian Scriptures, God declares the normative state of creation as “very good” or even “excellent” according to some translations (Gen. 1:31). You and I know, however, that in our lived realities this normative pronouncement is like wishful thinking. We know, for example, that there is nothing good about a plane with over 230 passengers disappearing. There is nothing good about violence in our neighborhoods; nothing good about children dying of malnutrition and preventable diseases and lack of clean drinking water. Our own bodies constantly remind us that all is not very good. We are aware of social injustice, annexation of nations and, yes, pain and division in the church. All these lived realities point to a broken existence. My question is, does God’s normative pronouncement in Genesis have any bearing on us?
I believe it does. In Genesis a scene is depicted where we see the shalom of creation interrupted or even broken. God’s response to this situation provides a window into who God is or how God responds amidst the disruption of shalom. In Genesis 3:8, God walks into the garden in the evening breeze and does not find his friends. God’s action in that moment tells me that God is not content with brokenness and lack of wholeness. This is why God calls Adam and Eve. God is a God on a mission, the one who is sent to seek and redeem that which is broken. God is good news!
Let us take a look at the Son who knows the Father and the only One that makes the Father known (John 1:18). When he walked the face of the earth, Jesus came because the Father sent him. It is interesting, however, to notice how the Son interacted with the Father who sent him and how he went about accomplishing his mission. Before Jesus did anything, he heard a voice of affirmation from his father. “You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased”(Mark 1:11).
The fact that the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where that identity was tested ought to say a lot to us. Can you imagine spending 40 days in the wilderness with no food? Can you imagine the pain and loneliness? Why was this important? Could it be that silence is the place where we are able to be present with ourselves? Could the place where we face our pain, our inner voices, and our hunger be the place where God’s words of affirmation are real and deeply formative?
From this formative place, Jesus began announcing God’s good news. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)
The “time” that Jesus talked about is not chronological sequence as we know it. It is rather time with a purpose, time as intentional movement initiated and guided by God, proceeding from a certain beginning to a promised conclusion, “to all generations.” David Bosch describes the biblical term kairos as “decisive moment, fateful hour, extraordinary opportunity, turning-point in history.” (Guder p. 30)
Repentance includes feeling sorry for our sins and turning away from those sins to believe the good news of God. But it is more comprehensive than that. It encompasses one’s worldview, a change of narrative. Jesus’ coming and his message are good news. That is why we sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come “ at Christmas. The compassion of God is the motivating power of God’s mission. Both God’s acts of creation and God’s determination to heal his rebellious creation are the compelling reasons for the salvation history, which unfolds from Abraham onward.
When Jesus walked the face of this earth, many narratives or controlling stories were forming his people: the quietist narrative of the Qumran community, the compromise of Herod Antipas, the zealots, nationalistic narrative, the purity of the Pharisee.
Rather than choosing from the list of competing narratives, Jesus presented a better and superior narrative by saying, “the kingdom of God is at hand.” Jesus then went about living and demonstrating what the world will look like when God is fully in control. It was from such narratives that Jesus called his people to repent. For in and through Jesus, God inaugurated a different story, a story of redemption, a story of self-denial and self-giving love. It is this story that forms and shapes the church’s mission. This is the story that invites us all to repent and receive. It is the good news!
In Jesus and now through Jesus’ disciples, God is bringing about his justice and mercy to the whole world. What Jesus was to his people, the church, ought to be for the world. After all, Jesus said, “As the father sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21).
As the people of a missionary God, our mandate is to engage the world the same way Jesus did. Jesus had authority and spoke with authority. He cast out demons and healed the sick. Can you relate to these stories? When did we last see a demon being cast out of someone in the church? What do we do with these stories? If this is how Jesus did his ministry and made disciples, why do we think we can make disciples merely by building great programs, knowing the best methodologies, and having big budgets? How do we equip for missional multiplication? We need to do what Jesus did; creating space to connect with God, going out to embody the good news etc. Instead of asking what would Jesus do, we ought to ask what did Jesus do? From what formative story(ies) might Jesus be calling us to repent?