When I leave the church and the Lord's Day behind to enter the other six days of my week, I do so sufficiently equipped and heavily armed to face the challenges "out there" in the world--at least in certain respects. Since the late 70's a veritable conveyor belt of publications have poured forth with an amazing array of "helps" for the serious follower of Jesus Christ who wishes to stay faithful in the other six days. From the plethora of general and targeted discipleship programs to tips for witnessing in every conceivable cultural context to the numerous training manuals for soldiers on the front lines of spiritual warfare, the help just keeps on coming.
And it's a good thing too because the hostility between church and world, between the Lord's Day and the other six days is very real. We should know, because we have all been there, have we not, out there, where the enemy seems to flourish with little opposition?
We all . . . following the course of this world, following the prince of the power if air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--among whom we all once lived in the passion of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2:1-3).
Out there where at this very moment our "adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). Yes, the hostility between the church and the world proves very real, very deep, and very dangerous. Thus the apostle asks "what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols?" The ancient command issued to ancient Israel receives re-iteration with fresh force to Christian congregations even though they live and breathe on the far side of Jesus' words of victory uttered from Golgotha "It is finished." Even here and now the imperative remains in force: "Be separate from them, says the Lord" (1 Corinthians 6: 14-17).
Yet permanently juxtaposed beside this imperative to come out from among them stands that other imperative without which the church forfeits a major dimension of its raison d'etre. "Go ye." God calls and separates all of his children out of the world only to separate them back to the world; not in fear and trembling, nor bearing a cocksure arrogance, nor a flippant or smug triumphalism, but as soldiers on a rescue mission. "Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save."
Into what a spectacular adventure God sets us believers! He deploys us as tools in his hands to rescue sinners and bring them into the church as his adopted children. Yet, amazingly, God's revealed purposes of redemption are actually much larger than even this. The rescue mission cannot, by itself, fully comprehend the vision cast by God in his holy word.
We rightly cherish and honor Jesus the babe in Bethlehem's manger, the teacher on the shores Galilee, the healer at the Pool of Bethesda, the crucified spotless Lamb of God at Calvary, and the glorified savior and Lord come forth from the grave. But we neglect (to our hurt) the only Jesus with whom we have ever personally had to do--the ascended and exalted Christ. The freshly resurrected Jesus Christ himself forecast something of the explosive implications of the next phase of his own history: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matthew 28:18).
"All power"? That's a lot of power. Just who was this one with whom we had to do lying in the manger and teaching in the synagogue and beyond? The Apostle Paul helps us:
He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:15-17).
Yes, when we leave the sanctuary of Sabbath and Church and enter the world and the place of our work we enter hostile and forbidding terrain; but note well, this realm still belongs to him, and in him to us as well. It is his, and he is taking it all back, back from the darkness, back from the usurping evil one, back from us sinners, to himself. "We do not yet see all things under his feet" (Hebrews 2:8), but, make no mistake, the die is cast, his enemies have the whiff of death upon them; they are all doomed.
Every nook and cranny of this universe, every factory and office tower; every mine shaft, arbor of grapes and row of corn, and even every Dilbertesque computer cubicle lies in the path of an invasion, a tidal wave of redemption in the wake of which the whole creation, including the workplace must make him preeminent; must serve and bear witness to him.
Our sharing of the gospel "out there" not only invites sinners to saving repentance and faith but announces "the making of all things new," including our workplaces and our work itself. How about some helps and tools in the understanding of this dimension of divine redemption? Though neglected and even forgotten, these helps too are abundant both in scripture and in the Christian tradition. They are there for us if we but dig them out, clean them up and put them to use "out there" in the other 6 days where we expend most of our energies and live most of our lives.