For sometime now I have been convinced that as the church, we are to be a demonstration of God’s redeemed and restored world to come among this present world still groaning for redemption and restoration. This is implied in our in Ephesians 2:10 where we are spoken of as “God’s artwork” (NJB) or “God’s handiwork” (which you can read more about here). Of course, we’re not perfect representations but if we are following Jesus and living by the power of the Holy Spirit then we ought to be this proleptic image of God’s redemption and restoration.
We also find this intent implied in when Paul speaks of us as “new creation” in Christ where the old has been replaced with the new (2 Cor 5:17). In Christ, we are no longer what we once were but have become new people who belong to the new world is redemptively restoring. Interestingly, the New English Bible translates 2 Corinthians 5:17 as follows: “If anyone is united to Christ, there is a new world; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (italics mine).
The more I read and study about the gospel as well as the Christian doctrines of Incarnation and Eschatology, the more I become convicted of this ecclesiological identity. Then in doing some reading for an upcoming doctoral seminar, I came across these words of John Howard Yoder from his small book Body Politics:
The message is that Christ has begun a new phase of world history. The primary characterization of that newness is that now within history there is a group of people whom it is not exaggerating to call a “new world” or a “new humanity.” We know the new world has come because its formation breaches the previously followed boundaries that had been fixed by the orders of creation and providence.
I think Yoder gets it right and while we recognize that we will never perfectly be this new world or new humanity until Jesus returns, I wonder… Do our non-Christian neighbors see a good dosage of the new world in us or do they just see the same old world they are living in?
Understanding ourselves as new creation is changes the rules of the game, so to speak. It should shape the way we participate in God’s mission. That is, we’re not just trying to get individuals to make a personal decision for Christ but to demonstrate for them this new life as we invite to partake new life they too are called for. It should also change the way we ethically respond to the challenges we encounter. Rather than continuing with utilitarian reasoning, we live by the character of this new life (taught to us by Jesus) not because it will always work for us among people of the old world that’s passing but because it demonstrates to them what the new world is like and who we are as new creation. Finally, as new creation, it should stir our imaginations to the celebrative and creative possibilities for the way we interact as a gathered church. That is, apart from the times when we do grieve, our life as church should be fun and full of joyous occasions inspired by the Spirit-guided use of our freedom in Christ to party as only new creation in Christ can do.