Tuesday, February 22, 2011

There's a New World Coming

Tuesday nights mean Anderson U. and my class "Christian Witness in a Pluralistic World." We finished up the section on Islam tonight, but we only just began.

A lot of people are anxious about the cultural shifts that seem to come faster and faster all the time. In my more anxious moments/seasons, I am like a lot of people who fear the end of the world as we know it. I get anxious when I forget the One who is behind human history. This does not absolve me of my responsibility . . . but then, what is my responsibility?

Nicodemus was also nervous when he went to Jesus at night (John 3). He was part of a group that wanted to keep things like they were, or at least manage change to suit themselves (the Pharisees). He's the one for whom Jesus compared the working of the Holy Spirit to the wind: "The Spirit blows where it will. You can feel its passing but you don't know where it comes from or where it goes."

Wouldn't it be convenient if we could blow the Spirit where we wanted? Convenient but ultimately fruitless. We religious humans like to predict the work of God. We spend millions of dollars buying schemes in the form of the latest prophecy books in the hope of comforting ourselves and deciding who's in and who's out of the kingdom.

Jesus says that when the Spirit of God blows through a person or a culture, life as we know it ends. Usually we consider that to be a disaster. The disciples sure did as they watched Jesus die on the cross three years later. Even after the resurrection, they thought God would now create a kingdom after their liking and consistent with their priorities.

Think of the kind of God you have. Do you think that the world is out of his control just because some terrorists bomb a building, an earthquake hits below the equator, or Islam is no longer sequestered "where it belongs." Perhaps God is doing a new thing. God is used to us not understanding his doings as he seeks the reconciliation of the world through Christ.

The Apostle Paul used to be in Nicodemus' club for the self-righteously correct. Jesus broke him loose from that and send him around the known world talking about the new thing He was doing. Toward the end of his life, Paul wrote "I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." (Philippians 3) He prayed that another group would follow God into "the length, the depth, the height, and the breadth" of what He was doing. Unlike many today, Paul was convinced that in spite of some appearances, the darkness was already past and the true light was shining all the more brightly.

Let's stop wringing our hands and pointing out bogeymen. Instead let's get ready the keep in step with the Spirit as He moves.

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