This is the third in a series of posts about God's value of woman and The Creator's plan for people in the Kingdom of God to restore his original intent through the life of the church. In the first post — "Of Sacred Value" — we looked at God's creation of both man and woman made in his image and of equal value. In the second post — "Made to be Complements" — we looked at God's creation of male and female to be complements of each other and supplying what the other could not have without them. Today, we want to focus on how the church is supposed to be the place that the Creator's original intent is to be restored.
Chaos. Hatred. War. Bloodshed. Crime. Abuse. Illness. Poverty. Hostile weather.
Deep in our bones, we know that something is broken with our world. The breathtaking beauty, symmetry, and diversity of God's creation reminds us of God's goodness in our magnificent universe. Yet this breathtaking beauty exists alongside a malevolence and hostility that shows itself in violent eruptions throughout our world and its systems. Paul's words written to Roman Christians capture this primal disconnect that we feel in our souls:
For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time (Romans 8:19-22).
This brokenness has impacted the way we treat each other as fellow humans. It has most certainly marred the way men and women have dealt with each other. This brokenness was not what God wanted for us. We live after "the long Fall"* and we live in the mess of sin — a divine goodness ripped apart by sin and left in its insidious residues. What God had carefully designed to be beautiful is fractured and distorted. The connection between complements, both created of equal value in the image of the Creator, is now fractured. The relationship between man and woman has become a dance of grace now often marred by deception, sin, blame, hiding, abuse, deceit, and regret.
As Jesus' disciples and as Jesus' family, we live in the aftermath of "the long Fall." Yet we live in this aftermath to be salt to counteract the world's decay and light to help lead the world out of its darkness (Matthew 5:13-16). Jesus taught us to pray:
"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:9-10).
In praying this prayer, Jesus' disciples are saying, "God our world is broken and we desperately want to see your Kingdom come and bring your full and redemptive grace to our world and restore your original creative grace and divine intent to all that is broken." By praying this prayer, we are also accepting our role in being partners with our Father's work at redeeming the world to this original creative grace and divine intent. This is our role as disciples in the Father's dawning Kingdom.
Pentecost becomes the moment of God's divine spark of restoration. Rooted in Luke's account of this important moment in history is a glimpse of our role. We are to be Jesus' people, participants in the re-creation of God's creative grace and divine intent. At Pentecost several results of "the long and cataclysmic Fall" are reversed. In these "last days," Babel and the confusion of languages and division of people (Genesis 11:1-9) are reversed as each person hears the message of Jesus in his or her own language (Acts 2:5-18)).
More than just the separation of language is mended by this flash of divine grace. Young and old are united in dreaming dreams and having visions. Both men and women prophesy and "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord" can be saved (Acts 2:21). This promise of the Spirit's work of re-creating a new humanity while bringing salvation and the forgiveness of sin is not just for those at Pentecost. All whom the Lord calls to himself, even those who are far off, will join with this original group at Pentecost. They share in this new creation through believing in Jesus, by sharing in baptism, and by receiving the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38-41). Built into the fabric of Pentecost, the birth of Jesus' church, is the promise of the restoration of a people who live out their Creator's intent in their Kingdom culture.
With Pentecost, God began the work of re-creating his new humanity. Paul talked about no longer viewing anyone from a worldly point of view because he had experienced this new creation:
For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:14-17).
The implications of Pentecost and this new creation are astounding. What we see in glimpses during Jesus' ministry are now to be breaking into our world through Jesus' people who are re-created in him to do his good work (Ephesians 2:10) of building his Kingdom family. This Kingdom family is the place where the Creator's original intent for all things, especially for valuing men and women as the Father's precious creations, is experienced. Jesus' disciples live in a different place — "a new creation has come" — than the world around them. Their lives and their fellowship are to beckon the world to that place of grace. It is through the church, this place of grace, that the barriers that separate people are torn down and a new humanity is created (Ephesians 2:11-16). This place of grace is so revolutionary that it captures the attention of heavenly beings as well as worldly authorities:
His intent was that the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities of the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ephesians 3:10-11).
Paul had a way of speaking of this divine intent that was to be restored. He used the same language of Pentecost — faith in Jesus, baptism, and the work and personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit — to talk about this place of re-creation and restoration of the Creator's intent. While found elsewhere in his letters, Paul's fullest declaration of it is as breathtaking as it is comprehensive:
For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. ... And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, "Abba, Father." (Galatians 3:26-29; Galatians 4:6).
What this means for us is terribly important for us as Jesus' disciples. We must not miss it. So let me re-emphasize a few key points.
God made us, both male and female, of equal value in his divine image.More than just the separation of language is mended by this flash of divine grace.God made us to be complements of each other — male and female are different, yet essential to the other to be all whom God made us to be.
The "long Fall" and the created order has left us in a mess of chaos, division, suspicion, blame, hate, rivalry, abuse, and sin. But Jesus taught us to pray for a different world — God's creative intent, his will done on earth — to be restored through us in the church.
Pentecost was the beginning of this new Kingdom breaking in on the world through Jesus' disciples the church where the differences of language and culture, as well as gender, were restored to God's creative intent.
In the church, Paul proclaimed, this new world is to be demonstrated by Jesus' disciples as division and barriers that separate humankind fall as we are made into a new humanity in Christ and the ultimate value of each person is restored to God's creative intent.
Of course understanding God's design for the church to lead the way in breaking down barriers that separate humankind is one thing, flawed human disciples living it out are another.
How do we capture Jesus' high view of our role in the world?
How do we live more redemptively on the front edge of societal redemption and not on the defensive end, reacting to everything new that we feel might threaten us?
How do we begin with God's purpose of Pentecost and his Kingdom people restoring his creative intent instead of a few proof-texted passages that support church as we know it?
How do we work redemptively as salt and light and not become co-opted with the world and culture's agenda instead of God's intent?
These are all thoughts to ponder and matters for our prayer time as we ask the Spirit to enlighten and transform us as we pray for God's Kingdom to come and his will to be done in us as it is in heaven.
Exploring Galatians 3:26-4:4 and what it means as God's goal for his people.
* Throughout this post, the phrase "the long Fall" and similar statements that use these same three words refer to Genesis chapters 3-11. These chapters talk about more than just the Fall of Adam and Eve, but they tell us how sin infected the whole fabric of creation and brought about divisions, barriers, and hostilities to a once perfectly created universe.