So we all know what Christianity is about right?
I mean, when you look at the history of faith, what Jesus taught, it’s pretty clear what the MAIN GOAL is, isn’t it?
We often tend to speak this way, and if you listen to how different churches articulate faith, it is sometimes spoken of as a clear fact.
As we’ve been talking about our common Mission at St. Augustine’s, I’ve been listening and asking a few people what the goal of the whole thing is. Here is the breadth of responses that I’ve heard below. I give a little explanation when needed. Sometimes I use my own words, sometimes I use the words exactly as they came. I am not arguing at this point for any one over the other. You may be drawn to some, or repelled by others. I want to highlight here only the complexity of giving an answer to our question. They are in no particular order!
What is the goal of Christianity?
a) Divinization – that we become “like God.” This is not to say that we become ‘mini-Gods’ over some heavenly domain somewhere, but that our Character and Conduct begins to reflect more and more the life and love of God. The Orthodox tradition leans in this direction.
b) To have a “Jesus-shaped life.” Not far from the above, but perhaps a more concrete expression of divinization. This understands Jesus to be the completion and fulfillment of human life. To live and act in his pattern is the greatest good. We study him so that we can become like him. It should not be overlooked that martyrs (those killed for their faith) are often seen as those who followed even his suffering unto death.
c) Eternity with God where there will be no more pain or sorrow. Believers sometimes take a very forward looking view. The understanding that Jesus has made a way for us to live with God forever. Not surprisingly, we hear this very often from persecuted people through history. No doubt that if you were suffering under great oppression, the gate of death and the reward of life with God becomes very attractive.
d) New Creation – the fulfillment of Creation’s purposes. In Revelation, God says, “will create a new heaven and a new earth.” Throughout the scriptures, there is a sense that a day will come when God’s initial purposes in creating the world will come to their fullness, or that the world will be remade to fulfill them. One view of Christianity highlights our participation in ushering in this new world by our common work and witness. It is about living in the now and the not yet at once.
e) Living and dwelling with God. That our goal is to remain “as branches connected to the Vine.” That, as Jesus had such an intimate relationship with his heavenly Father, so too, our goal is to dwell always in relationship with our heavenly father.
f) To Love, Serve, and Reverence God. This from the Ignatian tradition. St. Ignatius argues that the goal of our whole life is to do these things and to make use of everything available to us to achieve this end.
g) To build the Kingdom of God on Earth. This is often the view of those drawn to Social Justice work. The belief is that Jesus was not talking about a heavenly kingdom far away, but about equity, justice, and peace experienced *now* through our labors.
h) To save the lost, so that the second coming of Jesus can be ushered in. Following the call to go out to all nations, the belief is that when all people have heard the news of God in the world, Jesus will be able to come again in the flesh and a new age of glory will be ushered in. Many of the most fervent evangelistic organizations follow this belief.
Wow! What do you think? What inspires you? Which one blends most fully with your reading of the scriptures.
Some may be dismayed by so many answers. I am drawn in. This list says to me that the Gospel (the good news of God) reaches us in so many ways that it is hard to put our finger on only one articulation. It is also a reflection of how different people and different traditions and different experiences lead us to hear the Gospel in different ways.
I hold that the “Jesus event” was so impactful, so powerful, that we are still working out its implications through the passage of time. For instance, these days we are really working through how the Gospel changes our ecological consciousness. Ecology has not been such a focus before in the church.
Perhaps this diversity is the reason the Church chose to keep all four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Blessings as you continue to think about where we land in mission and identity at St. Augustine’s.
MISSION CONVERSATION – We gather as a whole church Saturday, November 18th, 9:30am-Noon. Child care and snacks provided. We will talk as a community about our common mission, who we are seeking to serve, and what difference we want to make to them, to the world.
Anyone want to bring muffins? Let me know :)
Have a great week, conscious of God’s love.