Jesus is Lord, victorious over death
How sad it is that so many Christians actually see their salvation as an individual, transactional moment, one which we have complete agency over. It is sad because our declaration that Jesus is Lord is so incumbent upon us being Lords too, and it is a recipe for condemnation. To many people, Christianity is a religion of guilt and condemnation. Followers of Jesus certainly have agency over their choice to be disciples of Our Lord, but our choice to follow isn’t what saves the world or saves us. Jesus is doing the saving and has done the saving through his life, death, and resurrection. The curse on humankind, the idea that death is now a fact of life, is being lifted by Jesus. Jesus is saving the world. His Lordship means that no other god will reign over him and he has erased the sin of the world. This sin, like salvation, is not just an individual action, but rather a sick condition that is placed on the whole world. Jesus is healing the world of what ails it.
When we reduce that salvation to individual action and discipline, we miss the point. Jesus isn’t just making the world better, he is changing the world! He isn’t just making individuals better; the entire fabric of the world that we live in is being altered because of the new reality Jesus is inaugurating. I say this because it’s easy to miss. Christianity, itself, has become a part of the American mythos that it’s hard to imagine how it could change much. I don’t blame the social architects for using Christianity to advance their cause; it’s rational from a certain perspective. Constantine, from a strategic point of view, in his conversion and baptism, was able to move a committed group of people to serve in his army as if it was the Lord’s army. It’s the same story for today. The revolution of the cross changes and redeems the whole world.
Salvation is awakening ourselves to that reality
When we share the Good News, it is this good news, that we are sharing: the “event” is not individual, but what we share is personal. We haven’t forgotten that intimate relationships are how Jesus is best revealed and the Gospel is delivered. This is exactly the point of Circle of Hope; it’s our central “thesis.” Jesus is best revealed incarnationally; the Gospel is best delivered personally.
Sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ’s Lordship, and the redemption of the world through His Lordship, is what it means to share the gospel. It is what it literally means to Evangelize. Our salvation is awakening ourselves to the reality of Jesus’ cosmic salvation. We find this idea manifestly in the Bible, perhaps clearest in Colossians 1:
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
That’s the story of salvation. It is far from an individual transaction; it is a cosmic revolution. When we learn of the Good News, we join Jesus in active participation in this world redemption project. The inevitability of victory over death and evil was done on the cross and we continue to express it today. Our salvation is when we are alerted to our active participation in that revolution.
We shift from the individual to the collective
It’s hard to imagine this collective effort because we are programmed to be so individualistic. It’s hard to imagine doing something this epic in common with Jesus, because we can barely get through our individual problems and trials that it seems like a stretch to help with something that takes more people. But that’s the ticket. Our load is lightened when we work together. It’s not an increased obligation, the yoke of Jesus is easy, the burden is light. Doing things in common is better than doing them alone. You don’t have to provide safety and security for yourself, or for your family, or on your own because Jesus is moving us on a mission together as a community.
Because this cosmic project requires all of us, we learn to lean and rely on each other in a new way. We learn to trust each other and to trust God. We learn to let go of our fear, our anxiety, our suspicion. It’s incredible that just engaging in the work softens our hearts and lightens our burden. Our awareness of and subsequent participation in salvation of the world through Jesus has power on its own. The heavy lifting is already done. The lamb is slain. Victory has happened and is happening. We are moving on a journey with Jesus, as saved people, saving the world. If it sounds grandiose, that’s because it is.
There is nothing like it in the whole world. It should boggle your mind. Your mind needs boggling. The work of Jesus renews our mind and unhinges us from the messages we receive from the powers that engender fear and anxiety in us. The devil is using the powers that be to try to undo the work of Jesus and to try to maintain the condition of sin on the world that covers everything. It’s a futile fight, of course, but we are still at risk of believing the lie. We need to resist those messages, as we allow Jesus to renew our minds, shape our desires, and transform our bodies.
We shift from the abstract to the tangible
As we shift from an individualist, transactional salvation to one that involves the whole world, and the entire planet, we also shift from abstract belief to tangible action. So far, this big idea of God’s liberation and redemption of the world can seem distant, ethereal, a nice idea, but hard to ground. And I think that’s where our action participation in it matters.
Circle of Hope is a tangible expression of this salvific movement. Participation in the church is a practical way to make this abstract idea more grounded. And I am afraid we’ve reduced that down to just going to a meeting. When worship is just another meeting, and your cell is an obligation, we’ve really taken a lot of the content out of the container. We can’t allow the practicalities of being the church to take away from the power of the work that the church is meant to do. The Holy Spirit fills our hearts, minds, and bodies with this energy from God’s liberation, and we channel that in worship, in fellowship, and in community.
Not only that, we also live radically and mutually together, and we share generously too. We ask people in our church to actually make their “yes” a “yes” in how they share. This gift and work of salvation is evidenced in our life as disciples of Jesus. We not only say that Jesus is Lord, we demonstrate that Jesus is Lord by our sacrificial life together. Can you believe people share their time, heart, and money with us? We don’t say we are Christians participating in world redemption, we actually do it. And honestly, if you don’t tangibly express it, you’re back to where we started: individual belief that temporarily comforts you. Faith like that is demanding and hard to sustain. Our life together and our work together is an opportunity for a deeply held and rooted faith. I hope you can find a way to participate with us, or from where ever you are.