Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sunday Reading, A Fellowship of Differents #7

I am continuing to read through Scot McKnight’s new book A Fellowship of Differents: Showing The World God’s Design for Life Together. In this book McKnight makes the point that the church is not and is not to be a unity based on everyone being the same but a tasty dinner salad in which each ingredient contributes its unique flavor to the whole. The only way that this can work is through the power of the Spirit producing love in us for those who are not like us. The church is, thus, a place where people who wouldn’t normally be together, grow together into God’s image. I am going through the book one section at a time every Sunday, posting some quotes on my Facebook page and a summary here on my blog. I welcome comments on my Facebook page. Quotes from the book are in blue.
Part 5 of the book is on Newness. Paul says that “in Christ” we are a new creation. McKnight sees 4 new aspects to that newness: Freedom, Faithfulness, Guidance and Politics. All of these are placed in us by God’s working through the Holy Spirit as we respond with a “rugged commitment” to love God with all our being and love our neighbor (who is very different than us) as we love ourselves.
First, we have a new freedom. The bottom line on this freedom is that it comes from God, not from anything external and is a freedom to be what God has made us to be. It is a freedom to break out of social boundaries and love others. It is freedom from God’s judgment and enslavement to sin. It is a freedom to live within the only constraint which is to love. We are not bound by others’ reactions to us because we can love them not “for who they are now but for what God will make them in the kingdom.”

Yes, a life of freedom means exploring new ideas and new ways of living, which requires discernment. Discernment about how freedom means fellowship, godliness, holiness, love, justice, wisdom, and peace, and how it does not mean indulgence, greed, vindictiveness, and narcissism. 149

The second Newness that God gives us is A New Faithfulness. This is faith seen over the long-haul of life. God’s power for it is placed in us from the moment we know Jesus but it “is unleashed in us as we look to, lean on, and love God,” and “is the result of a lifetime of daily commitments.” It is mostly ordinary people making a daily decision to live the way Jesus would do.
We live ordinary lives, and faithfulness is about learning that being ordinary is okay. The ordinary Christian life of the ordinary Christian is faithfulness. How does it happen? God’s grace. 165

The third gift we receive from God is A New Guidance. McKnight characterizes God as a “charismatic Anglican” with a mix of routine and spontaneity that allowed this “fellowship of differents” to make God-led decisions together. It starts with being scripture-led which means being constrained by the clear principles of God’s Word. The church must also be Spirit-led as we hear from God how we are to apply His word to new situations and develop a mission which is biblically founded but meets the needs of where we are today. In other words, “we are to plan in light of God’s Scripture-soaked mission, but we must be open to the Spirit’s interruption. Here are four necessary words for that guidance: Scripture, Spirit, mission, and plans.”

From the first to the last breath of each day, Paul breathed Scripture-shaped, Spirit-directed mission air. His mission was to get Gentiles in the church at table with Jewish believers in the grand experiment of a cross-cultural, multiracial, multi-status, and dual-gendered body of Christ. 174

Finally, Christians have A New Politics. Our highest allegiance must be to King Jesus and the truth that he will rule the world (the “state” is only temporary). But, for us today, we like Jesus do not accomplish the kingdom by the sword but by the cross – he had “surrendered the way of coercion for the way of crucifixion because his ‘political theory’ was the gospel.” The church being the church, the way it is supposed to be is the strongest political statement we could make. The church’s job is to call people to follow Jesus.
The primary relation of the Christian to the state is to live under King Jesus in the church, the body of Christ, in such a way that we embody Christlikeness in a way that witnesses to the world. 187

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