Okay. If the church is the ‘communal form of God’s new humanity,’ why is it often such a confusing and disillusioning scene on the stage of this present human scene? In these recent blogs, I have been pursuing the over-arching reality that when ‘God’s tomorrow’ invaded our today, when God in Christ came to inaugurate the kingdom of God (or God’s new creation,) that he would call out a people to embody, or to incarnate that new creation before the watching world. Yet, shortly after the church was, in a sense, ‘birthed’ at Pentecost, and right away, you begin to see the complications and contradictions that would take place – so much so, that most of the apostolic writings (epistles/letters) were addressed to the issues and problems involved with bringing integrity into these new creation/new humanity communities. It is not only the persecutions and harassment from outside the church that constitute the challenge, … it is the internal dynamics of creating authentic communities of God’s family in Christ.

So, then, we are back to the old illusionàdisillusionàreality formula. We come to the church with the illusion of a perfect, mature, encouraging, nurturing and harmonious community, … but soon we find out that it is made up of real persons who have been called out of the darkness and into God’s marvelous light, … and that they have brought some of their pre-Christian baggage along with them. They do not immediately become mature new creation persons. You discover that within the community are all kinds of, often confusing, or compromised, prejudiced, even pathological personalities who have taken the first step into new creation, and it is still strange territory to them, so much so that much of their inner programming is still determined by their pre-Christian day.

That is the reality behind such the repetitive instruction of the apostles, to present our bodies as living sacrifices so that we may prove what is God’s intent in Christ, and then not to be conformed to this world but to being dynamically transformed in our minds so that we may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. So, underscore this reality: that the community of God’s new humanity is always in process of being recreated. We are always in process of being transformed from captives to the darkness into the glorious liberty of the children of God. We are always in the process of casting off the works of darkness and putting on the garments of light.

Therefore, the church as the community of God’s new humanity, the church in whatever form it may take, is, of necessity, a community of continual and dynamic repentance in which our mutual confession of sin is a healthy discipline necessary in that transformational process. It also means, however, that the church can often be complex and ambiguous in its actual incarnation. But, while this is so, it is also a continual community of reconciliation in which, as those who have been reconciled, are therefore to be reconcilers. Mutual love is he basic rule, and that by which the community is to always be the “sweet savor of Christ unto God,” as well as God’s witness in the realities of daily life.

Yes, we come with our illusion of a perfect and harmonious and loving fellowship, … only to have that illusion dashed by personalities still too much formed by the darkness. At the same time, as we learn to love one another, and forgive and be forgiven by one another, and to seek one another’s welfare and to be patient, we become more and more the community of God’s new creation in process that we are intended to be. It is a community of contrition as well as of joyous worship and profound communication with one another. Slowly, often, we learn to love one another as Christ has loved us, and so become “the sweet aroma of Christ unto God.” (Check out the ‘fruits of the holy spirit in Galatians 5, and you will begin to sense the character of that community). Stay tuned …

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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