Here for the Whole City

Here for the Whole City May 12, 2014

When Godoriginally created the world, Genesis 1:31 says He looked it over and saw thateverything was “very good.” Everything was in its place. In a word, creationenjoyed “shalom.” Putting it in a word picture, shalom means the fabricof the universe was perfectly woven together. Every single thread was in itsplace, interwoven and interdependent—no rips, no frays, no loose strings.

Humanity’sfall into sin shredded the fabric. Theologian Neal Plantinga calls sin“vandalism”—a willful and destructive attack on God’s shalom. Instead ofthe perfect integration of a tightly woven fabric, sin produced breakdown anddisintegration in every area of life: spiritual, psychological, social, physical.

Biblical “justice” issimply making things right. It’s the restoration of shalom. It’s weavingthe fabric back together wherever it’s torn or frayed—spiritually,psychologically, socially, and physically. Biblical justice is not so muchabout individual rights as it is about togetherness, interdependence,integration. It was a central purpose of Jesus’ life, and it remains a centralfunction of the church.

In last week’s sermon, Isuggested that, if most of us had to select a passage from Isaiah to explainJesus’ ministry, we would likely choose Isaiah 53—the suffering servant“smitten by God for our transgressions.” But when Jesus was given theopportunity to explain His mission, He turned to Isaiah 61 and read abouthelping the poor, liberating captives, giving sight to the blind, setting freethe oppressed. Why?

Jesus didn’t come merely to get people ready forheaven; He brought heaven down to them. He came to restore shalom.Jesus’ ministry demonstrates that the purpose of God in redemption is not tosave the elect out of the world but to save the world for the sake of theelect, that is, to renew and restore the entire creation. Jesus didn’t comemerely to save souls. He came to restore shalom to the whole creation.His resurrection from the dead is a foretaste of the resurrection, not just ofour own physical bodies, but of the entire created order.

At the endof the Bible, we don’t see God scooping up a basketful of His special people tohave them live with Him in heaven forever. Rather, heaven comes down to earthand radically cleanses it of evil, disease, injustice, and death. Our purpose,then, must be not just to create a great church but to create a great suburbancommunity. We are here for the good of the whole city.