Being a follower of Jesus includes a hopeful vision of the future. In the fullness of the kingdom of God, we will live on a new earth as embodied humans, worshiping and working, married to Christ and in fellowship with sisters and brothers from all nations (Rev. 21-22). There will be no more war, perfect justice, a restored ecology and each person will steward gifts and responsibilities consistent with his or her created design and fidelity during this present age (Isaiah 2; Mt. 25).
The resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit are the historical/personal guarantees of this eschatological vision (Acts 2-3). This audacious Christian hope inspires our covenant fidelity to the Triune God and concrete service to the world. Because of God’s unconditional love expressed in the Cross-and the liberating power of the resurrection, we now serve others sacrificially and all our present good works are signposts of the future.
This vision – eloquently expressed by Scot McKnight, N.T. Wright and Cherith Fee-Nordling among others – avoids utopian fantasy and dispensational fatalism. Our efforts are substantial but partial, for we are saved in hope of the final redemption (Ro. 8:18-27). We are not merely gathering decisions before the Rapture, but making disciples of all nations that work out their salvation in local communities that evangelize and seek the common good (Phil 2:12-16). Our disciples making includes all elements of human flourishing, from the inner life of contemplation to crating value through our work (see Charlie Self, Flourishing Churches and Communities).
Living the Future Now
This vision helps us transcend the unhelpful ideological divides and polemical histrionics that characterize civil discourse. With gratitude to A.J. Swoboda, we can speak in tongues and care for trees, engage in robust ecological action and ecstatic experiences. Biblical creation care does not mean policies that operate on zero-sum economic philosophies and radical wealth redistribution animated by fear. Eschatological hope unites ecological care and economic development, sensitivity to scarcity and the belief that wealth can expand.
In practice, this means hopeful believers are active peacemakers between the warring factions of free-market advocates and climate change activists, between those leaning toward command structures and those that prefer open global exchange. An honest evaluation of the last 50 years of economic history (see Hans Rosling’s “Economic History in Four Minutes”) gives us both concern and hope. The gap between rich and poor remains too wide and the religious and political systems keeping people poor need reformation. At the same time, millions of people have been lifted out of poverty into working and middle-class life.
In our quest for justice/shalom, we must avoid ideological entrapments and political pitfalls that will divide us and weaken our impact for good. The Mars Company recently shared the results of years of research and concluded that there is a way to foster the “triple-win” for people, planet and profits. From the infrastructure needs for Ghanaian cocoa producers to local distributors of M&M’s, it is possible to reward hard work and care for God’s world (See Steve Garber, Visions of Vocation).
I am skeptical of the extreme claims of climate change advocates, especially when some leaders are millions of dollars richer and will not publicly debate their ideas. I also reject libertarian philosophies devoid of environmental concern and the common good. As a historian, I am aware that climate will change and that humankind (not just the West since 1500) has always found ways to ruin (and occasionally steward) the ecology of their locations.
Why does this matter? As we reimagine mission for the 21st century, our fresh visions must include insights for planet care and prosperity, for wealth creation and wise management of God’s world. Our eschatology empowers our ethics. Biblically, there is no gap between personal and social ethics! Our disciple making must include the integration of faith, work and economics and a vision for structural justice that empowers creativity and innovation. Personal stewardship and care for the marginalized are united with a sense of mission and working in harmony with the environment. (See new measurements for assessing integration and progress at www.discipleshipdynamics.com).
We are delivered by grace for meaningful labor and worshipful rest, for transformative initiatives and unselfish relationships that secure the common good. Biblical wisdom heals the disintegrating forces that keep economic developers and environmental activists enemies instead of allies. Change begins with fresh imagination and focused action. Imagine
- Disciple making that connects Sunday worship and Monday work.
- Faith displacing fear as the reason for creation care.
- Economic expansion that nurtures long-term ecological health
- Executives voluntarily capping their compensation and sharing profits with all that make an enterprise work.
- Christians in all domains of society listening to the Spirit about their local ecology and economy.
Let’s live resurrectional lives for God’s glory and the good of others, refusing disintegration and embracing new possibilities. When God’s mission is paramount, our communities will be entrusted with natural and supernatural resources. As culture and society implode, we offer integration. As despair threatens liberty, we offer the liberation of hope. As justice goes to the highest bidders, we speak truth to power and advocate for the voiceless and vulnerable. As command-control efforts fail, we unleash a new generation of ethical entrepreneurs. With our biblical eschatology informing our ecological vision and economic creativity, we can lift many from poverty of body and spirit, anticipating the Day when “all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.” (Juliana of Norwich.)
Missio Alliance Comment Policy
The Missio Alliance Writing Collectives exist as a ministry of writing to resource theological practitioners for mission. From our Leading Voices to our regular Writing Team and those invited to publish with us as Community Voices, we are creating a space for thoughtful engagement of critical issues and questions facing the North American Church in God’s mission. This sort of thoughtful engagement is something that we seek to engender not only in our publishing, but in conversations that unfold as a result in the comment section of our articles.
Unfortunately, because of the relational distance introduced by online communication, “thoughtful engagement” and “comment sections” seldom go hand in hand. At the same time, censorship of comments by those who disagree with points made by authors, whose anger or limited perspective taints their words, or who simply feel the need to express their own opinion on a topic without any meaningful engagement with the article or comment in question can mask an important window into the true state of Christian discourse. As such, Missio Alliance sets forth the following suggestions for those who wish to engage in conversation around our writing:
1. Seek to understand the author’s intent.
If you disagree with something the an author said, consider framing your response as, “I hear you as saying _________. Am I understanding you correctly? If so, here’s why I disagree. _____________.
2. Seek to make your own voice heard.
We deeply desire and value the voice and perspective of our readers. However you may react to an article we publish or a fellow commenter, we encourage you to set forth that reaction is the most constructive way possible. Use your voice and perspective to move conversation forward rather than shut it down.
3. Share your story.
One of our favorite tenants is that “an enemy is someone whose story we haven’t heard.” Very often disagreements and rants are the result of people talking past rather than to one another. Everyone’s perspective is intimately bound up with their own stories – their contexts and experiences. We encourage you to couch your comments in whatever aspect of your own story might help others understand where you are coming from.
In view of those suggestions for shaping conversation on our site and in an effort to curate a hospitable space of open conversation, Missio Alliance may delete comments and/or ban users who show no regard for constructive engagement, especially those whose comments are easily construed as trolling, threatening, or abusive.