A messianic spirituality has a redemptive approach to all aspects of life. If God acts redemptively, then it is all right for us to act in precisely the same mode. @alanhirsch @michaelfrost Click To Tweet
A messianic spirituality has a redemptive approach to all aspects of life. This theme has much to offer us in the construction of a courageous missional spirituality because it gives us a framework to (re)conceptualize our actions in the world. If God acts redemptively, then it is all right for us to act in precisely the same mode.
One of the great themes of Scripture is that God is a redeemer. Redemptive action may take two forms, (a) a redemption by power, whereby people are released from slavery through an act of violence, or (b) redemption by purchase where a kinsman-redeemer pays the price to free a person sold into servitude. God acts in both ways in Scripture (the Cross has both ideas to it), and these can become metaphors for missional action in the world. In other words, God is the redeemer, and in that mode he provides a model for how we can act in the world. To redeem is to buy back that which is lost, clean it up, and put it back to its original intended use.
There is virtually nothing in human existence or culture that cannot be redeemed and made into worship, including action. If we take C. S. Lewis’s point that all vices are virtues gone wrong, then we can take a different look at humanity and associated culture. We must be active in all dimensions of human life, especially at the cultural level, because culture is the sphere where people and societies share common meaning. As part of the redemption of all aspects of life we should be actively interpreting movies, literature, pop-culture, experiences, new religious movements, and the like. They can be redeemed and directed to the glory of God. It is precisely these things that have the elements of human searching and yearning in them that must be correlated to the mind and heart of God if they are to be redeemed. This is exactly what Paul was doing in Acts 17 in his speech on Mars Hill. He was highlighting to the Greek philosophers that the search going on in their own writings was a legitimate one. He then directed them to the resurrection of Jesus.There is virtually nothing in human existence or culture that cannot be redeemed and made into worship, including action - what we choose to do and how we choose to bless the world through the power of the resurrection. Click To Tweet
We have to be able to name the name of Jesus in the midst of the search going on in our day—it is our missional responsibility! If we don’t, who will? Or do we believe that we have nothing to say about art, culture, and the search for meaning? Acting redemptively will require that we are in the midst of it all trying to buy back some of the lostness in the name of Jesus. In saying this we are affirming that our actions, or more particularly our missional deeds, actually confer grace. In fact, this could be the case even more so than the standard (somewhat abstracted) sacraments of the Christendom church. Humans have the freedom to protest against human suffering by acting to alleviate it. An alleviation of suffering in the name of Jesus bestows something of the grace of God through his people. Such an action pulls a person away from his own self-involved concerns and directs him missionally toward other human beings in such a way that they, the persons acted upon and the person acting, find God in a new way. Elie Wiesel, winner of the Nobel prize for peace and luminous Jewish writer, has a character in one of his books affirm the sacramental value of the human, and humanizing, deed in the following passage from Twilight:
If you could have seen yourself, framed in the doorway [Pedro once said to Michael], you would have believed in the richness of existence—as I do—in the possibility of having it and sharing it. It’s so simple! You see a musician in the street; you give him a thousand francs instead of ten; he’ll believe in God. You see a woman weeping, smile at her tenderly, even if you don’t know her; she’ll believe in you. You see a forsaken old man; open your heart to him, and he’ll believe in himself. You will have surprised them. Thanks to you, they will have trembled, and everything around them will vibrate.Blessed is he capable of surprising and of being surprised.
As such, deeds are not only sacramental, but they are themselves revelatory, that is, they reveal God in his goodness. There is a Talmudic saying that may be interpreted as meaning that revelation resides within the deed itself: “From within his own deed, man as well as nation hears the voice of God.” The New Testament writers are entirely comfortable with this typically Hebraic mode of thinking. The following are examples:
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matt. 5:16)
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Pet. 2:12)
If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet. 4:11)
The sacred deed is full of God’s glory. If we take verses like these seriously, then we must acknowledge that God is found more in acts of kindness than in the mountains and forests. It is more biblical for us to believe in the immanence of God in holy deeds than in the immanence of God in nature.Humans have the freedom to protest against human suffering by acting to alleviate it. An alleviation of suffering in the name of Jesus bestows something of the grace of God through his people. @alanhirsch @michaelfrost Click To Tweet
For us there are such exciting possibilities in the belief that our deeds and actions are both sacramental and revelatory. This is not only so because of the missional effect on people around about us, but also because of its effect on us. In the action we can find God where we could not find him before—in the streets, at work, in the marketplaces, at play. In fact, we can find him anywhere where we can act in holiness and so become a conduit of God’s grace to the world. When Paul says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10), he was expressing something profound about our creational purpose “in the Messiah.”
Our actions are part of God’s plan for us.
No one can therefore say that our spirituality has nothing to do with our good works.
It has everything to do with them.
It’s time to reclaim the deed.
Today’s reading is an excerpt from The Shaping Of Things To Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church (2013) by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost. This updated version of the 2003 classic is sharp, relevant and as necessary today as it was when it first hit the shelves.