Peter Thiel, who is a co-founder if PayPal and a teacher at Stanford, has written a fascinating book about some of the dynamics necessary for ‘start-up’ companies. I think I’d like to plagiarize a small piece of this as I seek in these blogs to propose an alternative narrative for the church under the rubric of the church as: colonies of God’s new humanity. Thiel speaks of the small group of young I.T. wizards who invented PayPal. They were all, he says, the same kind of nerd, and they were all obsessed with the creating of the same form of digital currency. Nerds who were obsessed with a vision—I like that. It sounds strangely like something that Jesus and the apostles had in mind when they were preaching the “all things new” kingdom of God, and the communities thereof. How can one be casual or passive or forgetful of the radically new creation that Jesus inaugurated by his life, death, and resurrection—and into which he calls us to be participants through our faith in him?

If I read the letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor (Revelation 2-3) correctly, when such churches become forgetful, or distracted, or diluted by accommodating of alien influences, they are in danger of ceasing to be churches, i.e., to have their lamps removed from the lampstand. Or, in Thiel’s terms: when churches cease to be the nerds who are obsessed with who Jesus is and what he has come to be and do … then to that extent they cease to be any kind of transformational communities of light and life in this dark world.

So, you may ask, how do we maintain that nerdy and obsessed authenticity as God’s new humanity people? What are the disciplines? Good question. I think it no accident that the apostle Paul climaxes his awesome letter to the Ephesians with his sobering exhortation that unless the believers consistently “put on the whole armor of God” that spiritual disaster is near certain. It is a call for being obsessed with what it is that they have been called to be as new humanity folk.

I think the figure of the whole armor (which would have been so familiar to those always in the presence of Roman soldiers) gives us a really practical and simple algorithm for our quest into this kind of authenticity. Here is my understanding: First, fasten on the belt of truth, which is not specifically defined but was that apron or belt necessary to protect the loins, hold the weapons, and the first to be put on. I take that to mean that we initially lay hold afresh of Jesus who is the Truth, and the sine qua non priority of any authenticity of new humanity. Second: we bind on the breastplate of righteousness, which I interpret as the doing of the truth, the living out of the behavior required of God’s new creation people, i.e., the orthopraxis, the good works, or the lifestyle that can be seen by all. We are after all called to be instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13). Third: on our feet we put the shoes of “the readiness of the gospel of peace,” which means that new humanity folk are incorrigibly obsessed and wholesomely contagious with Jesus Christ, and always ready to be instruments of thrilling reality of God’s love in Christ.

Fourth: knowing the reality of the potentially devastating assaults of the ‘god of this world’ in the form of doubts, of discouragements, and ‘down times’ we bind on the shield of our faith in our faithful Savior who has promised never to leave us nor forsake us. This Greek word has to do with a whole body shield. Next, Fifth: we put on the helmet of salvation, i.e., the kingdom, or new creation, thinking, or the knowledge of Christ and the mind of Christ. In other words we are to think Christianly, or be new creation nerds. Sixth: we take up always the sword of the Spirit, which is our capacity to eagerly communicate/speak/preach the message of Christ. And, finally, Seventh: we pray always as our way of communicating with God, and appropriating his wisdom and power in our lives. This armor can be put on by the simple reminding of ourselves each day of the pieces and appropriating them by faith, while walking, driving, or engaging in our daily routines. But they do need to be “put on” if we are to be authentic and obsessed nerds of God’s new humanity.

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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