What is God's Vision?
Proclaiming God's Vision is the 2014 theme for worship at Bethesda Mennonite Church. We are beginning the year in Luke 4:14-30.
In this scripture Jesus declares the words of Isaiah 61 - God's vision of hope and healing for the world. The people in the synagogue in Jesus' hometown heard these words and assumed that these gracious words were meant for them as God's chosen people. But Jesus spoke boldly and challenged them. God's grace was for all people - even the Gentiles.
Jesus crossed a boundary that day that had existed between the Jews and Gentiles for hundreds of years. The people made him pay by dragging him out of town to throw him off a cliff.
What made this boundary so important?
What was wrong with including the Gentiles?
Why was it so hard for the people in the church the be open to God's radical inclusiveness toward the Gentiles?
These questions were relevant to the church during Jesus time and are still relevant in the church in 2014. We are still in the business of boundary making and maintaining. But in Luke 4, Jesus reminds us that no ethnic boundaries can contain or limit what God is doing. God has a vision for freedom, hope and salvation and God extends an invitation to all regardless of ethnicity, race, gender, nation, church or group.
We see this throughout scripture:
Exodus 12:37-38 - Non-Israelites were saved in the Exodus
1 Kings 17: 8-24 - God saved the life of the child of Gentile woman
2 Kings 5 - Naaman from Syria, a Gentile, was healed from leprosy
John 4: 1-42 - Jesus offers the Samaritan woman the gift of living water
Acts 15: 1-35 - The boundary of circumcision is changed and Gentile believers are welcomed into the church
And so much more...
So what is our role in proclaiming God's vision?
What are our hang-ups in living out this vision?
Exclusivity? Tolerance? Something Else?
The book "You Lost Me" by David Kinnaman addresses why young Christians are leaving the church. His research shows that young adults across the country are feeling disconnected from the church today for a variety of reasons. One reason is "Exclusivity." He argues that young people today have grown up on a cultural diet of tolerance and therefore do not understand the exclusiveness of the church.
So what should we do?
Should the church become more tolerant to engage our younger Christians?
Should we maintain the boundaries that exist in the church even if it means we are exclusive?
Or is there another way?
What if we in the church rejected exclusion as unacceptable
and tolerance as not good enough?
David Kinnaman, You Lost Me
If we reject exclusion what do we do with the judgement in the Bible? What if God's judgement wasn't meant to condemn, separate or alienate people from God but rather to turn people back to relationship with God by speaking the truth that God reveals to us in the scripture?
This reminds us that tolerance isn't good enough. Jesus was never a "anything goes" kind of guy. He spoke truthfully to the people that he met - see the story in John about the Samaritan woman at the well.
Instead Jesus shows us another way - a third way. By studying Jesus, getting to know him personally and living like him, we can begin to understand this third way. And then we will learn to love others with the courage of our God-given convictions - for this is the fine art of following Christ.
So what are you waiting for? Get in the Word!