It’s just such thinking as this and in such times as this, John Nugent argues, that the Gospel becomes endangered.
In what Nugent calls the “Kingdom-Centered Gospel,” God created the world to be a very good place for his creatures but the sin of humanity corrupted God’s good creation.
So- God’s solution to the Sin problem was to call a particular People. God’s solution to Adam’s Fall was to raise up Abraham and to give him a family called Israel. God called Israel to be an alternative in the world. God called his People to live a set apart way with God as their King. And, through this particular People, God promised that the whole world would be blessed.
God didn’t explain how the world would be blessed through them.
God didn’t send them out into the world to bless it themselves.
God just promised that somehow through their life as God’s People would be a part of how God blesses the world.
What the Kingdom-Centered Gospel recovers that other versions miss is that all along God’s plan to make this world a better place was by calling a People.
And this is the plan God continues in Jesus.
God sends Jesus to inaugurate a better place in and through a particular People.
Christ isn’t King in Heaven nor in our hearts. Christ’s Kingdom isn’t far off or in the not yet future. Christ’s Kingdom teachings aren’t impossible ideals for an after life nor are they a blueprint for society and its civics.
From the beginning God’s plan to make this world a better place has always been through a particular People.
So if Christ is King then Christ’s People, his followers, the Church- they are his Kingdom. The People of Christ- who are the children of Abraham- they are the Kingdom. They are the Kingdom where lost sheep are sought and lost children welcomed and where sin is forgiven 70 x 7 times.
It’s not only that God raised Jesus from the dead to be a sign of God’s New Creation, it’s that Jesus raised up a Kingdom called Church who are themselves a sign.
New Creation isn’t something in the future for which we wait.
New Creation isn’t something we work to achieve.
And it’s not something God is doing out in the world that we must join outside of or apart from the People called Church.
The People called Church- they are what God is doing in the world.
The Church embodies, proclaims, and displays God’s future now, New Creation even within the Old, taking it on faith that, like yeast folded into dough, what God does in his People God will ultimately do for the world when Christ comes back in final victory.
That’s the Gospel.
As John Nugent says:
The Gospel does not call us to change the world.
The Gospel is how we are the change that God has already made in the world.
The Gospel does not call us to fix the world’s problems.
The Gospel is that we are God’s fix for the world.
Or we’re supposed to be.
But we can’t be who we’re called to be when we are more emotionally invested in our political party than we are in our faith, know more about the issues than we do our scripture, more invested in diversity as a political value than in the rough and tumble process of being a congregation with people we think are crazy.
John Nugent warns that when we rush out into the world to fix the world’s problems, by joining this movement or supporting that cause, endorsing this candidate or that party, we actually risk getting in God’s way.
When we try to fix the world’s problems by other means- especially the political means- we get in God’s way.
Because we’re supposed to be God’s fix for the world. We are the change God has already made in the world.
Rather than legislating abortion, we’re supposed to be the People who adopt and foster children, who welcome and support mothers.
More so than simply arguing about immigration and borders and walls, we’re supposed to be the People who welcome strangers and aliens.
While others fight over whether black lives matter or all lives matter, we’re supposed to be the Community who confesses, unashamedly so, their sin on a weekly basis, even our sin of racism, a community where there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, neither white nor black nor blue.
Economic policy, the Supreme Court, National Security- they’re important, sure, but they’re not the Gospel. We’re supposed to be the People who stay faithful to one another in marriage. We’re supposed to be the Community where none among us goes in need, where all that we have is shared with all whom we have in our community. We’re supposed to be the People who refuse to kill other Christians because that would be a light to the nations.
In such divisive, chaotic times it’s tempting to think we’re called to make this world a better place.
We are called to be the better place that God as made in this world.
As a pastor in a congregation split down the middle, we’ve got all the work we can handle just trying to be who God called us to be.