As I reflect on this past US election cycle, I’ve made a couple of observations.
I apologize now. I’m putting on my old preacher’s cap and I’m going to speak to my fellow Christ-followers. So if you don’t want a sermon, please turn away now. Also, I’m preaching to myself as well and not singling out any person or group.
My first observation is that our behavior during the past several months is symptomatic of a serious problem as Christ-followers. (And again, I’m speaking to myself about this as well.) The fact that we either joined in the endless arguing or stayed on the sidelines confused and befuddled only shows that we have misplaced our trust in our democratic system. So when faced with candidates with little moral integrity, we fell into the trap of voting for the one who would do the least amount of damage or keep the other “monster” out of office and from destroying our country.
I suspect that with the best intentions, all of us believed we should do something, but couldn’t determine the best course of action that resonated with our conscience and values. So most of us compromised in one way or another.
And that leads me to my second observation. Most, if not all, of us have no imagination about how to actually be God’s New Creation in the here and now. It’s true with politics and probably in other important areas of life.
Let me back up and summarize. Christ died to defeat all the evil powers enslaving humankind and restore us ontologically (our nature) and vocationally (our roles) as his image-bearers. The immediate consequence of that victory was Jesus’ resurrection. This launched God’s future New Creation, when God would fully and finally merge heaven and earth, the two spheres of his good creation. But Jesus’ resurrection launched that future reality in the here and now. Jesus’ Ascension and Pentecost then “sealed the deal.” In his ascension part of “earth” — Jesus’ human body — is fully at home in “heaven” and part of “heaven” — God’s empowering Spirit — now dwells on earth in our human bodies.
St Paul tells us in 2Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Messiah, new creation!” That person has both entered God’s New Creation and is God’s New Creation in bodily form.
So everything God accomplished in Jesus is now carried onward by Jesus’ followers. We are his New Creation and we continue his New Creation.
I’ve used this metaphor before, but becoming the New Creation is like training for the marathon. It’s not something that comes naturally. One cannot “Just do it!” Or to shift metaphors, living in and being God’s New Creation is like learning a new language. You may be able to initially fake a couple of words, but it takes time and effort to speak fluently in that language. Or to use another metaphor, living in God’s new world order and embodying his new world order is like learning to play the violin. We can all probably make it squeak and squawk. But to learn and master the instrument in order to play a fine classical number with passion and nuance takes discipline and diligence.
I’m sure you get my point. The fact that most of us either joined in the incendiary pre-election conversations (and I use the word “conversations” in the lightest way possible) or wrestled with almost paralyzing uncertainty about how to vote shows that we have not trained properly to be God’s New Creation. We were not ready to be and act as his New Creation.
So how do we move forward from here? Here are some suggestions that I plan to prayerfully follow.
First, we must learn what it means to be God’s New Creation and how to become it and live in it in our present daily lives. This means growing in our understanding and imagination about what the New Creation is. It also means being formed into Jesus’ likeness so we can be and act as God’s image-bearers.
Second, we must do this in community together. Jesus’ people, as a community, are his Body. We must share in life and in His life together. Regardless of our traditions, we must come together with the common goal of being with Jesus in order to learn from Jesus how to be like Jesus.
Third, in community, we must prayerfully seek and then in faith develop strategies for being God’s New Creation in every facet of life. Remember, God’s New Creation is an entirely new world order that requires rethinking and reimagining how to live in all of its facets.
In some ways, we need to backwards-engineer God’s New Creation. With thoughts and imaginations formed by a biblical vision, we must ask what steps must we take as individuals and as a community to see it birthed and matured in our lives.
For example, what character and behavior needs to be developed in my life and what spiritual disciplines, sacraments, prayers, and activities is God calling me to practice in cooperation with his continually forming process?
Or, what areas of need, pain and injustice exist in our neighboring community that our faith-community can engage with God’s love, compassion, power and healing? And how do we go about doing that?
Or, how do we address the real grit of daily life as God’s New Creation? How to be single as his New Creation. How to be married as his New Creation. How to be divorced as his New Creation. How to be a parent as his New Creation. How to be in business as his New Creation. How to be in ministry as his New Creation. How to be in education as his New Creation. How to deal with injustice as his New Creation. How to engage in politics as his New Creation. The list goes on and on and on.
And none of this comes naturally. It’s fueled by intimacy with Jesus and formed in cooperation with Jesus. And it must be done in community.
But the hard work must be done. Frankly, it’s confusing and painful work. As a reminder, look to our King’s suffering upon the cross and his followers’ confusion at its foot. Look to his followers’ confusion at the empty tomb and subsequent encounters with the resurrected Lord. Look to his followers’ uncertainty at the ascension. Look to the onlookers’ befuddlement at the Spirit’s gifting. Look to the early community’s fumblings as they learn together how to live together. Look to the early messengers like St Paul as they, with much persecution and suffering, contextualized and embodied God’s New Creation in new territories and cultures.
St Paul says in Romans 8:19, “Yes: creation itself is on tiptoe with expectation, eagerly awaiting the moment when God’s children will be revealed.” That day will finally and fully come. But it began when, through his death, Jesus restored us as God’s image-bearers and then launched God’s New Creation so that we may carry it onward until the day when God completes his good work.