God’s Mission and Our Mission of Reconciliation
God’s mission to reconcile all things to himself drives his purpose in calling a particular people to be the Church. As Ray Anderson states, “Mission precedes and creates the church” (The Soul of Ministry, p.158).
The Church’s mission is determined first by God’s mission through Christ, which is the mission of reconciliation.
Let’s compare Colossians 1:15-20 with 2 Corinthians 5:17-20.
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20)
God’s mission, in a word, is reconciliation. The scope of Creation was “all things;” the scope of the Fall was “all things,” and the scope of redemption, therefore, is “all things.” That is God’s mission in the world. This brings us to our mission in the world.
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new. All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)
God’s mission through Christ of reconciling all things back to himself begins when he “reconciled us to himself through Christ,” and continues when we, as his “ambassadors,” perform “the ministry of reconciliation.”
In other words, our mission is to be God’s agents of restoring all aspects of the created order back to God’s loving rule and standards, reconciling all things back to God through Christ.
God the Creator is the ruler of all of his creation, not just the natural created world, but also of the human endeavors in society and culture (see my previous post). As Alan Hirsch says in his excellent book, The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church,
“Therefore, everything—one’s work, one’s domestic life, one’s health, one’s worship—has significance to God. He is concerned with every aspect of the believer’s life, not just the so-called spiritual dimensions…There is no such thing as sacred and secular in biblical worldview. It can conceive of no part of the world that does not come under the claim of Yahweh’s lordship. All of life belongs to God, and true holiness means bringing all the spheres of our life under God.”
In other words, God is in the process of reconciling “all things” back to himself, not just the individual souls of people, not just the natural creation, but everything, including society and culture. All things were created by him, and he wants it all back.
But there’s a problem in American evangelical Christianity: we have lost the biblical understanding of God’s reconciliation ministry, and have replaced it with a neo-Gnosticism that truncates the gospel. More on that next.