Reveal the Encounter Issue 11: The Church and Redemption

I was recently preparing all my plans for Thanksgiving. Yes, I know it’s still a month away but I’m a planner.  My wife and I were planning all the food and activities for the weekend.  Our college freshman is coming home and we will be all together under one roof for a whole weekend as a family!  It was amazing how many things we had on our list.  We knew our son was probably missing the comforts of home and we wanted him to experience them to the fullest.  If you really think about it, we want him to miss home when he’s gone.  Maybe we know we have done our job right when he misses his home.  He may be out there working to begin his own life that will eventually lead him to having a home of his own one day, but I pray that he will look fondly at the home he grew up in and want many of the same things in his new home.  It got me to thinking about when Adam and Eve ate the fruit and sin entered the world, they were expelled from the Garden of Eden, their home.  Adam and Eve were homeless, they were scattered out into the world.  Their sin had deprived them of the blessings that God had created for them, including a beautiful home.  I recently read this quote, “What was lost informs the nature of redemption, of hope, and of obedience and love in the time between the times.”  If we look at this passage in the context of losing our home, Eden, Shalom, etc. What does it tell us of redemption?

I want to take us on a quick journey.  If a big part of the consequences of sin were to be scattered and evicted from a home, then redemption and hope should include the same elements.  For just a moment, let’s fast forward to the act of Christ bringing about a path for redemption and shalom to God’s Creation.  Throughout His ministry, Christ kept speaking about this mysterious Kingdom of God.  If you have read previous posts within this blog, you will remember that we have a tendency to think of the Kingdom of God as something to come when in reality the Kingdom of God isn’t just something to come, it’s partially here already.  Christ ushered in a way for the Kingdom of God to be seen and experienced.  The Kingdom of God will be a return to the Garden of Eden, a return to Shalom.  If we also go by the earlier understanding that redemption is informed by what we lost then the loss of home, the loss of Shalom is also involved in redemption and hope.  What happens when we combine all of these different pieces of a puzzle?  I know it can seem kind of crazy and all over the place right now, but when these pieces of the puzzle are put together, we see that the puzzle is Eden, Shalom, the Kingdom of God, a blessed home.  Unfortunately, it was broken apart and the pieces have to be put back together to regain God’s intended purpose, but Christ made putting the pieces back together possible.

Christ not only made putting the pieces back together possible, He invited us to participate in it.  He invited us to participate in the Kingdom of God, Shalom, here and now.  While it may not fully be here because we have to wait for Christ’s coming when all things will be restored to their full created potential, we are given a foretaste of it.  The question has always been, how do we help build the Kingdom?  Every believer or individual who has ever read the Bible knows that believers are called to help Christ build the Kingdom of God.  But, how do we help participate in this beautiful picture and work of redemption?  Aren’t we called to not only recruit but to be a living example of what we are recruiting for?  How do we help live lives of Shalom and share that with the world?  I have simply one word, church.

Unfortunately, I feel we may have demoted the word church to only mean a physical building, a physical location, maybe a bunch of activities, but in reality it’s supposed to be the picture of Eden, Shalom and the Kingdom of God.  The Church is supposed to be our new home until the final home comes, our sneak peek preview of what is to come.  Have you ever pictured the Church as Eden?  Unfortunately, many today view the Church as the farthest thing from the home that was created by God to bless us even though we have so many that trying and working so hard to fulfill the vocation that God has laid on His followers and Creation, the Church.  Many have experienced hurt, heartache, pettiness. They’ve even experienced some of the same things that would expel us from Eden all over again and then we have some may have never experienced anything in the church good or bad so it’s a moot point for them.

We know from Scripture that the Church is the body of Christ, the bride of Christ. But, the Church is not only the body of Christ, it is also the way and picture of redemption!  It’s a picture of the puzzle to help us put the pieces back together.  We are scattered and we need the Church to be a place that helps fulfill the blessings God has for His Creation as well as helping be a tool to help show others the nature of redemption.  It breaks my heart to think that we can’t give people a glimpse of what redemption holds for them by letting them see the Church as how God intended.

We have Churches full of grumpy and unhappy people that hurt themselves and so many others by their actions or their unwillingness to look outside of themselves.  Now don’t misunderstand me, we have many who are the complete and total opposite. They are happy and they love everyone passionately, but they unfortunately don’t erase the simple fact that the majority of individuals would not describe the Church as Eden, as Shalom, as the home that we can find rest after being scattered.  I don’t want to run down or ignore the great things that are happening in the global Church but maybe we also need to step up our game so that this world knows how great and awesome the Kingdom of God is and can be.  I know that we are imperfect and that the Church isn’t going to be perfect but should that stop us from trying and holding ourselves accountable to a higher divine standard.  This world should be able to look at the Church and want to be like it, but instead we find much of the Church trying to be like the world or maybe even something that no one wants to be a part of except those already there and even then, they’re not usually happy with it. I know that one of my biggest desires in this world is to see a Church that embraces and understands this goal and that it’s called to be more than a social club. Instead the Church is to be a home, a place of rest, a network of healthy relationships with one another and God, a place of Shalom for those who have been scattered.  I want to see a church where this world can find what they have been deprived of because of that sad day in Eden all those years ago and not just more heartache and disappointment that being scattered has already poured onto their lives.

BUT, the great thing is it’s not too late!  What would happen if the Church saw themselves as a beacon of light and hope?  What if the Church was truly a city on a Hill displaying for this world, the Kingdom of God?  Would we need fancy programs, silver tongued presentations, the best music and productions money can buy?  No, I think we would see people coming together supporting one another, encouraging one another, loving one another no matter what because it’s in our nature to be loved unconditionally and not be scattered.  We want to belong, but not only do we belong, we want to belong to the Kingdom of God, the new Eden.  What if the Church were the home for the prodigal children?  What if we were the place that everyone knew as the perfect home, the loving home, the home of grace, the home that welcomes you back with a huge hug no matter what you may have done while separated!  I will have to admit that I went through a big portion of my life and ministry not thinking of the Church as the Kingdom or as a picture of the home we had lost in Eden but instead only as a tool to help get us to the Kingdom.  I believe the moment you begin to see, or remember to see the Church as the glimpse to the Kingdom of God, incredible things can begin to happen.

So, ask yourself.

What does Heaven look like to you?

What is the Kingdom of Heaven supposed to look like and feel like?

Am I helping make my church or the Church be that picture?

Would God point people to your church to help show others to redemption?

We’ve all lost a home and so a home is part of redemption.  Let’s be the home that everyone is looking for and in need of, even if they don’t know it!

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