The Mission of God: Good News for an Unjust World
Christians in the affluent West are sometimes criticised for unwittingly buying into modern individualism, narrowing the Gospel down to mere personal salvation. We are also accused of presenting a God more concerned with an imaginary “heaven and hell” in some ethereal “after-life” than with the tangible suffering and injustice of this concrete “here and now” world. To a modern, sceptical audience the Gospel we preach seems to sit somewhere between irrelevance, escapism and make-believe. This need not be the case.
The Gospels present Jesus announcing “the Kingdom of God has come.” A close reading of his message shows him proclaiming the arrival on earth, in the here and now, of the dynamic, powerful and righteous reign of God. He talked about God’s glorious rule confronting evil, overturning injustice and bringing peace. To be sure, this magnificent program of liberation reaches its full climax only at Jesus’ return. But until then, the kingdom is to spread unstoppably across the globe, permeating and transforming every dimension of our sin-beholden civilisation.
The Good News for our sceptical world is that God is deeply concerned about suffering and evil, and is actively committed to redeeming it. So committed, in fact, he put “skin in the game.” His son willingly became the tortured victim of injustice gone mad, and in the process broke evil’s malignant grip. A new age in which righteousness peacefully rules is now dawning. That is good news!
So how does personal salvation fit into this kingdom message? Simply, but confrontingly. When God’s kingdom comes in its full and final power, and when evil is eternally banished from our world, God will justly destroy those forces that rebelled against his rule. The good news of the kingdom has a sting in the tail: when the kingdom of God finally vanquishes evil, will you be found to have been God’s enemy or his friend? Far better to be found his friend.
So, good news for the world comes to bear upon each person. Salvation for the world could mean salvation for the individual - or condemnation - depending on where their allegiance lies. Thankfully the gospel of the kingdom comes with an offer of amnesty to God’s enemies: “Turn away from your rebellion. Be forgiven for your past. Pledge loyalty to the King. Take your place in his triumphant kingdom.”
That is good news – for the world and for me.
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