Excerpted from “Making All Things New: God’s Dream for Global Justice” by R. York Moore (IVP, © 2012).
The Dream of God and Mission
Shards of gray poured like snow from the mound of clay. My dad always sculpted with a squinty eye and a cigarette dangling from the left of his lips. I would sit silently, legs crossed under the table where beauty was born, just happy to sit with my dad as he created worlds out of clay.
In his sculptures, he brought forth life and purpose. My dad’s creations always seemed to be born out of a mixture of passionate determination, a longing for beauty and a secret inner violence. His sculpting tools were more than artist’s instruments; they were weapons of warfare, tools that willed his creations into being. His weapons destroyed chaos, decimating the gray-green solid mass on that table as he willed it into a transcendent expression of life.
Overjoyed to play some small part in this warfare, I would sweep up the shavings and chunks of clay each day for him to use again. He never wasted the shavings, always reusing them to cast his thoughts into existence. Day after day, sculpture after sculpture, order emerged from chaos, beauty came from ugliness, and transcendent meaning soared from fallen shards of clay.
If you know an artist, you know what I’m talking about. You know the willing of chaos into order. The transformation of nothingness into beauty. The bringing forth of a dream that lives only within the mind’s eye.
There is often eccentricity in the lives of artists, with a cost to themselves and to those around them. We children of artists may have wanted for food and clothing, but we never wanted for blocks of gray-green dreams. My dad’s commitment to his art came before all things. He was sold out to it.
This image of the willful, determined artist may not be too far from the beautiful biblical image of divine mission. God is on mission to resculpt our world, to recreate out of the fallen chunks a new world. The sculpture of God’s first creation lies in ruins; shards of clay litter the floor below where beauty and transcendence once stood. Our world is not the world God intends, so we engage in mission.
Throughout this book we’ve looked at the importance of God’s end-time judgment, and there is now no greater response to what we’ve learned than the consideration of our actions. Our mission, the work of joining God in what he is doing, is our ultimate response to eschatology—not charts and graphs and escapist plans. Christian mission born out of a deep conviction of Christ’s return is mission with the power to change the world and our own lives in the process. Mission is not merely modifying the world in which we live. Ours is not the work of pressing out the wrinkles of life, of giving a nice little religious boost to the lives of those we seek to reach. God’s mission is to make all things new. In pursuing this mission, we see the radical commitment God makes to achieve his goal. God is determined, above all else, to resculpt the world and establish an everlasting kingdom of joy.
Ours is the privilege of joining with God in establishing his reign where it is not present. It is an end-time work that brings the dream of tomorrow into the nightmare of today. Our mission is about joining God in making all things new.
The Need for Mission
Whenever we witness times of suffering and injustice, we are reminded of the need for mission. Exploitation, abuse and neglect, death and disease, destruction and displacement—the sufferings we witness in this world cause us to dream of another one. Suffering and injustice causes some people to lose faith, to doubt the existence of a world other than this one. But others have confidence in the reality of another, better world, and it motivates them to put their lives on the line. It inspires great acts of bravery and heroism; it drives them to give their all to reach for the dream. History is filled with the stories of millions who hoped against hope for another world and who risked their lives to establish justice in their pursuit of joy.
The dream of God includes us—our efforts, our passions and our risks—to establish his dream where it is not. The dream of God is not merely a future reality. It is a reality that we can taste, touch, feel and live today if only we would reach for it together. Throughout the history of the church, this has been the foundation of biblical mission.