I am reading through the Pentateuch with a particularly inquisitive and wise friend of mine who always puts great questions to me, which send me off in search of “answers,” and God tends to just provide even more challenging questions! However, in great resonance with the trip I took to Yunnan last year and the upcoming one with Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship, we have recently been discussing the tension in the Old Testament between God’s call for Abraham to be a blessing to the nations and God’s subsequent call to expand the literal territory and presence of God’s people on the earth. Simply put this might be the tension between the call to blessing and the call to expansion.
In a recent post I talked about how the scripture which calls us to bless the nations has often been misused by missionaries in the vein of cultural, spiritual, and physical violence to the very people we are seeking to bless. This morning I stumbled upon an excellent, short reflection on these themes by Rick Love entitled “Blessing the Nations in the 21st Century: A 3D Approach to Apostolic Ministry.” Love talks about how the context of our world has changed to one of pluralism, globalization, and terrorism. Those who seek to serve God in this global context need to be passionate about whom we serve (Christ), but also passionate about portraying themselves with cultural sensitivity and integrity.
A part of the article that really resonated me was when Love points out that Paul was both a tent maker and a rabbi, and that neither of these roles superseded the other. I have often felt misunderstood by the two communities (the Church and academica, specifically Anthropology) which I straddle, but I have always embraced this challenge as one that speaks to the reality and the complexity of our world today.
As Love writes, “Paradigm shifts are exciting to read about in history, but they are never easy to experience.”
The hope that I have for the Church in today’s world is that much of that tension I spoke about between the blessing and the expansionist call is resolved in the person of Jesus Christ. Christ provides us with a model of passion, nonviolence, humility, and discretion from which to study how to serve others with the love, justice, and mercy that Christians should be famous for. The hope that I also have is that the Church in the global south is the fastest growing body of Christians around the world, with whom God is placing the humble task of blessing the nations. Talk about a paradigm shift!
I would be interested to hear what others think about Love’s article: what hopes and fears do you have for the global Church today?