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Archive for July, 2014

Morality and Mission

Wright“All Christian virtue is located within that vocation [of bearing God’s image in the wider world]…Ultimately, God does not want human beings as perfected individuals, all clean and scrubbed but with nothing to do.  Morality, surprisingly to some, is part of mission.  Cleansed vessels are to be put to fresh use; conversely, fresh use requires cleansing.” (N. T. Wright, After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters, pp 117, 206)

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guthrie“If we understand the meaning of predestination in light of the biblical witness to God’s grace in Christ, we will understand it as both a gift and a task. In making this point, we end our discussion by emphasizing one of the most important and most neglected emphases of the biblical understanding of predestination.

For centuries Christians have talked mostly about what a privileged people God’s chosen people are, about the great ‘benefits’ that come when God chooses to be for us and not against us, about all the good things God will give us and do for us. All too often we have thought (and even said out loud) that we who have received the gifts of God’s saving grace can congratulate ourselves that we are ‘in’ with God, whereas others are ‘out’; included, whereas they are excluded; loved and helped by God, whereas they are not; saved, whereas they are damned.

That is not what predestination means in the Bible. According to scripture, it is true that God loves, protects, blesses, saves those who are chosen to be God’s people. But that is not the main thing the Bible says about them. It says that they are chosen not to be God’s pets or privileged elite but to be God’s servants, chosen not to receive and enjoy for themselves all the benefits of God’s saving grace others do not have but to be instruments of God’s grace so that others may receive and enjoy these benefits also…

That is what it means for us to be the chosen people of God. We too [like Jesus] are chosen not instead of but for the sake of the world’s outsiders. We are chosen not to escape from a godless and godforsaken world with all its sinfulness and suffering, but to be sent into it and live for it. We are chosen not so that we can congratulate ourselves because we live in the light while everyone else gropes in the darkness, but to be a light that shines in their darkness. We are chosen so that those who are excluded from the benefits of God’s loving justice and just love may be included. For we too are chosen not to be served but to serve, to take up our crosses as we follow the Chosen One of God who was crucified because he cared for all the wrong people.

The good news of predestination, in other words, carries with it a warning: Be careful if you want to be one of God’s elect insiders. It will make your life harder, not easier. It will not give you everything you want; it will demand everything you have. It will not put you on the side of the powerful and the righteous of the world but on the side of the powerless and undeserving sinners. The privilege is not that of enjoying material and spiritual blessings denied others; it is the privilege of living in self-giving love for them.” (Shirley C. Guthrie, Christian Doctrine, revised ed., pp. 139-40)

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