Restored, not annihilated.
by Elias Blum
The grand narrative of the Christian story, according to N. T. Wright, is that the world will be restored not annihilated.
Christianity isn’t about escaping from the real world to go and sit pointlessly on a heavenly cloud forever, but about being transformed by love and set free to be an agent of loving transformation in the real world. Jesus doesn’t want us to ‘believe in him so we can go to heaven’. That’s primary school religion.
The reality is so much more than that. The good news is that the whole world has been restored (in principle), is being restored (in practice), and will be restored (in perfection). Jesus calls upon us to follow him in his mission of bringing the Kingdom of God to reality on earth. We are called to be part of the process of restoration. We are invited to be co-implementers of the radical manifesto set out in the Magnificat, in the Sermon on the Mount, and elsewhere in the teachings of Jesus.
That manifesto of restoration is good news for the poor and the outcast, the landless and the oppressed, the sick and the abandoned and the refugee. But of course it will be bitterly opposed by the rich, the powerful, the vested-interests, and the ‘religious’ types, who will see it for what it is – a challenge to the lies and the fears on which their privilege rests. In fact, people who truly live and preach that manifesto are likely, in many parts of the world, to end up as the victims of murder at the hands of corrupt militaristic states – and often with the collusion of corrupt religious hierarchies. After all, that is precisely what happened to Jesus. But somehow, in a way I cannot begin to fully understand, he rose above it all. They could kill him, but they couldn’t quite kill him off.
And I’ve glimpsed just enough of the reality of this Kingdom over the years to be increasingly convinced that there is, behind it all, something ‘out there’ and ‘in here’ that makes this more than just a reliance on well-intentioned human effort. There’s a moment of resurrection in history that assures us that resurrection is not only possible but ultimately assured. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is still alive and at work and is still bringing shoots of resurrection and restoration all over the world. So although Christianity has political action and social action, as integral parts of its transformative work, the church is more than just a pressure group or an aid agency; it is a community in which we live in and share that Spirit. All this comes from an experience and encounter with the power of love. It saves us from the messes we make, so that we can save the world.
I think that’s a beautiful, compelling, amazing thing. Something worth devoting one’s life to.