Part Three of N.T. Wright's Simply Jesus is the “so what?” or “application” or “contemporary relevance” section of the book. He is asking at the outset of the chapter, “What on earth does it mean, today, that Jesus is king, that he is Lord of the world?” (p. 207) People typically take four positions on the subject:
- Jesus is dead, gone, and certainly not in charge, though people may have their own private spirtual Christian experiences.
- Jesus will be Lord, but not until the second coming.
- God is at work in the wider world, outside the church, and the church should merely join in what God is already doing.
- The church must not collude with the world in any way. This is how Jesus reclaims what is rightfully his.
He explores these positions by creating a pretend dialogue of sorts between four people who, respectively, hold to these views.
God's Rule – Through Us
It is completely in line with the comission given to human begins, in the creation story, that God would rule the world through humans (Gen 1:26-28). “[H]umans are to be God's image-bearers, that is, they are to reflect his sovereign rule into the world… Jesus resecues human beings in order that through them he may rule his world in the new way he always intended.” (p. 212)
All that we do for God's kingdom is an expression of and is rooted in worship. God will bless the world through people who are becoming like what Jesus describes in the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-10).
The Beatitudes are the agenda for kingdom people. They are not simply about how to behave, so that God will do something nice to you. They are about the way in which Jesus wants to rule the world. He wants to do it through this sort of people – people, actually like himself… When God wants to change the world, he doesn't send in the tanks. He sends in the meek, the mourners, those who are hungry and thirsty for God's justice, the peacemakers, and so on. Just as God's whole style…reflects his generous love, sharing his rule with his human creatures, so the way in which those humans then have to behave if they are to be agents of Jesus's lordship reflects in its turn the same sense of vulnerable, gentle, but powerful self-giving love. (pp. 218-219)
Wright makes it clear that the church messes things up quite frequently. Nevertheless, he has this to say on the matter:
- “…[F]or every foolish or wicked Christian leader who ends up in court, in the newspapers, or both, there are dozens, hundreds, thousands who are doing a great job, often unnoticed except within their own communities.”
- “…[W]e must never forget that the way Jesus worked then and works now is through forgiveness and restoration… The church is not supposed to be a society of perfect people doing great work. It's a society of forgiven sinners repaying their unpayable debt of love by working for Jesus's kingdom every way they can, knowing themselves unworthy of the task…”
- “The way in which Jesus exercises his sovereign lordship in the present time includes his strange, often secret, sovereignty over the nations and their rulers.” (pp. 220-222) Part of the church's role is to call these rulers to account.
This was a long chapter and I just hit the high notes. If you are just now joining in with me as I work through this book, you can catch up here: