We are meant to embody the power of blessing.
By Tara Beth Leach
Paul says to the Philippians, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky” (Phil 2:15). We are the stars in the sky—shining in all of our radiant glory as the love of God bursts forth. We—all who are in Christ—are the royal priesthood and God’s special possession. And the news only gets better! In Christ, we begin to reflect God’s glorious image as Paul says, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18).
We are heirs of God’s promises to Abraham, and we are included in God’s blessed people. And just as God called Abraham to faithfulness and obedience, God also called the church. As children of Abraham and sons and daughters of the King, we’ve distorted the story of the perfect gospel to be a ticket to heaven—or else.
But the radiant gospel is about a people leaning into and reflecting the goodness of God to an embattled world. The radiant gospel is about the people of God in Christ extending the table and gathering as an alternative community in a world gone awry. We are to embody the power of blessing—that in the middle of a chaotic, prideful, sinful, decaying, embattled, broken world, we would embody the promises of Abraham and live the vision of Jesus as salt and light. As a covenant community in Christ, we don’t just randomly do salt-and-light kind of things; rather, we are salt and light. As salt and light, we are called to mediate the goodness, light, love and holiness of God.
What a radiant call God has entrusted to God’s people.
A DIMLY LIT STAR
However, Jesus declares this word with a warning: “But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot” (Matt. 5:13). A very honest, practical, and difficult warning for the church. Jesus reminds the church that there is a strong possibility of a diminished witness and impact. We see this repeatedly with moral failures in Christian leaders and pastors. When their sins are exposed, their witness abruptly crumbles and rarely returns. Let’s expand this thought for the church in North America. If we damage the impact we have been entrusted with, will it ever be regained?
Dear church, we have been invited to participate in such a marvelous mission, which was first unfolded with Abraham, was revealed in the pages of Scripture, and culminated in King Jesus. This mission is still unfolding in our weary world, and the marvelous wonder of it all is that we are summoned to participate.
Have we been too busy worrying about being correct instead of loving? Have we been consumed with being in control and in power rather than laying down our lives? It seems we have been more wrapped up in the ABCs of empire (attendance, building, cash) than we have in participating in the mission of God. Do we love the thrill of power at the expense of loving our neighbor? It seems we have bought into a warped vision for the Christian life. Money and consumerism are central to our vision for the good life. We sometimes bow at the altar of nationalism. Have we forgotten who we are?
When I was in high school, I was a competitive swimmer—very competitive. At the end of the day, I was interested in winning. During my senior year of high school, it was possible I would be conference champ in two different events. However, we knew that the results would be close. Like most typical angsty teenagers, I was a train wreck at home. I projected my anxious emotions onto my family and made everyone in the house miserable. Eventually, my dad sat me down and gave me a talk:
“Tara Beth, we are so proud of you. We are amazed that you have made it to this place of perhaps being conference champ. But there’s one important thing you seemed to have forgotten. You are a Moore. You might think that your role is to win. Winning is great. But as a Moore, your job isn’t to win. Your job is to give it all you got—both at home and in the pool. Yes, you are fearless, you are strong, and you are determined. And you are also a Moore, which means your character and attitude at home matters. It’s not what you win or achieve; it’s who you are.”
That day, Dad reminded me of who I was. At the end of the day, it wasn’t about the medals, but it was about my character and the name I bore. He interrupted my winning imagination and reminded me not to forget who I was.
Dear church, have we forgotten who we are? That is, have we forgotten who we are as mediators of God’s goodness and love in this world? Have we forgotten the name of Jesus that we bear? The name of Jesus who bears the vision of humility and love, as Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” —vv. 6–11
This is the name we bear. I believe we have forgotten, and I believe it’s time to return to the radiant vision of the gospel. It’s time to reclaim what it means to be salt and light in this world and peel away the layers of worldly bronze and be the church that draws the attention of the world in such a way that …
“At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.” —Philippians 2:10–11
Taken from Radiant Church by Tara Beth Leach. Copyright © 2020 by Tara Beth Leach. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. IVPress.com