The Redeeming Church

“The only way for the world to know that it is being redeemed is for the church to point to the Redeemer by being a redeemed people.”

– Stanley Hauerwas (Resident Aliens)

The Church. What is it? What is it not? What is it for and what are we to be doing?

The Church is God’s children in whole (All those who follow Christ and his way to God), also called “the Body of Christ”. It is all who follow in the footsteps of Christ and preach the gospel to the poor, reaching their hands out to the world, showing the offering of Christ on the cross, the source of reconciliation and all hope.

William H. Willimon states one of the most beautiful descriptions of what the church is to be in his book, “Who Will Be Saved?” —

The church is “salvation embodied, practiced, and enjoyed… Open hospitality, confession of sin and receiving forgiveness, gifts to the poor, active seeking of those who don’t yet know, and exploring ways to tell them the good news in such a way that they might hear and respond.”

Now, what is the Church NOT? Or – How is the Church going the wrong “way”?

First, the Church was never intended to be institutionalized; it was never intended to become legalistic and judgmental/condemning of the world. Second, the Church is not the church (individual, shut off buildings with “special” services to “select” people who “live” by the pushed fundamentals of that specific church). There are congregations: groups of followers of Jesus who desire to fellowship and live in community with each other. The “local” church should be better defined as all the believers in the city that they live in — just like the early church, named by the city Corith, Ephesus, etc… Then there should be congregations that meet together, possibly more than we do now, and who go out and preach the gospel through action and not just words, instead of maintaining their building, striving to build their numbers to get more to tithe to maintain their building and expand their “influence”, or tear down a wall to build a coffee shop in the sanctuary (maybe we should be tearing down the walls of injustice, pain, sin, and slavery and then give away coffee on the streets…). Third, the church should not be preaching the name of politics, but living in action a way that is so obscure to our earthly, messed up political system, that it is political (like Jesus). Jesus didn’t preach for the government of Rome, or for Caesar (who, interestingly enough, called himself the “Son of God”… Maybe that is why Caesar was so angry about Jesus calling himself that…), Jesus preached a “New Kingdom”, a “New World”, a “New heaven and a new earth together”. He preached of another nation, or the government under Loves control and supreme rule. Interesting. Our nation preaches the gospel of the American Dream – We can take care of ourselves, and therefore need no savior but America.

Fourth, and almost most importantly, we cannot continue to preach the “gospel” the way we have that last 200 years. Evangelism, the “sinners prayer”, etc… has to be stopped. The idea of evangelism, interestingly enough, was adopted over 200 years ago. You may be asking, “Didn’t Stephen forget a zero?” Nope. It actually was under 200 years ago, right after the United States of America became a country. CRAZY. You might be saying, “No! Jesus was an evangelist, he told people to say the sinners prayer!” He absolutely did not. He told them to follow him, believe in him and upon his name, not to be “saved” (from hell and forever punishment) but to inherit the Kingdom of God NOW and live in eternal life NOW; to be a redeemed people and follow in the Way of himself (Jesus), the way of love and reconciliation.

How did Jesus tell people how to inherit “eternal life”?

And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”  

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. 

And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 

When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

– Matthew 19:16,17, 21-26

It is interesting, that Jesus didn’t say the man had to believe upon his name, or bow down before him right then and there and confess. Jesus said to sell his possessions and give them to the poor. Interesting. Was Jesus talking about “eternal life” how we have interpreted it being “the way to heaven and escape from hell”? No! Not at all!

Then was Jesus talking about receiving eternal life NOW? Was he talking about living in eternal life on this earth now? Was it about being saved? Or was it about living in salvation? (two completely different things).

The answer is at the end. Jesus’ disciples ask him, “Then who can be saved?”, and Jesus responds with one of those “thats not what I’m talking about” answers. Jesus responds, “With people this is impossible” (to save yourself by any of your own merit, like the rich man), “…but with God ALL things are possible.”

Jesus was speaking of inheriting eternal life NOW, and beginning to live in it awaiting the time when God will reconcile all things to himself!

Jesus responded right then and there that “Anything is possibly with God” as meaning, “God can choose to save this rich man if he wants, but that is not what I’m talking about, that is not what I was talking about to this rich man, but instead, being reconciled to God and living as a redeemed people.”

The rich man asked about what he “should do” (merit? works?) to “enter eternal life”. Jesus said he should obey the commandments. He didn’t say, “repent, believe, and you will be saved,” but “BE RECONCILED and LIVE IN ETERNAL LIFE NOW!” To live in eternal life, you act, you do works of righteousness towards God.

To be saved? Jesus response, “Well, God is the one who saves, not you”!

‎”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… For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace by the blood of his cross.” – Col 1:16-20

There are many other issues I can stress about the state of the Church today (in America). But, God will take care of that. Now how do we live as a REDEEMED people lead by the REDEEMER of all people? (like the Chinese Church)…

We live like we are redeemed, live in the “Good News of great joy”, not pridefully condemning those who don’t choose to be redeemed like us, but love them until they are impressed by the amount we have been redeemed by the Redeemer, Jesus.

A new commandment — Love God, love your neighbor, as you love yourself, do good to those who persecute you, love your enemy. — this is being a redeemed people – loving EVERYONE without end and embodying the hope of Christ and the grace of God to all the world.

Then there is a scripture in Romans that speaks of the amount of love we are to give to others —

“But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so you will heap burning coal of love on his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:20-21

Now this is being a redeemed people and showing that reconciliation to the world through love (which is the greatest – Faith. Hope. LOVE. “But the greatest of these is love.”).

The definition of Redeem:

1. to buy or pay off; clear by payment: to redeem a mortgage.

2. to make up for; make amends for; offset (some fault,shortcoming, etc.)

3. to obtain the release or restoration of, as from captivity, by paying a ransom.

4. Theology . to deliver from sin and its consequences by means of a sacrifice offered for the sinner.

Just as Jesus did for us all, we should share and act out to all those we come into contact with. We should “pay off the debt” and “make amends” and “restore the captives” and “pay for the ransom”, and “be a living sacrifice” of love.

We are not only to be a redeemed people, but a redeeming people.

Now for all those other ideas that have you questioning, or all those “judgements” that make you think, and all those “controversial” topics that you don’t understand, and all the other possible conversation that can go on after these kinds of thoughts, please do not resist to comment below all of your thoughts/questions/concerns…

I have opened up the commenting section so this conversation can continue. Now GO, WRITE, LOVE.

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