Richard Wilson
His will being done

Over the last year or so I have had the privilege of being able to write a number of blogs for the Jubilee+ website. These have included highlighting a range of different Christian projects; often projects leading their field or those undertaking a particular work not being done by others. When I say it has been a privilege, the particular joy has been not in the writing – when I often feel like a simple signpost to the hard work of others – but more in being inspired, before I write, by the conversations with the key people leading the projects. At this point I offer my reservation about using the word project, as that suggests something ordinary or organisational, rather than what these works really are, ministries of Jesus through his Bride, the Church.

Those preparatory conversations with leaders have been about the works themselves – how they began, how they have grown, who they are now serving and how they do that. I do not recall any of these chats touching on any deeper underlying theological convictions. So, in my reflections, I do not want to impute my own thoughts to those I have interviewed, but what always comes over in conversations has been an enthusiasm born out of a love for Jesus and a commitment to the people being served.

The leaders with whom I spoke did not see a ‘project’ or an ‘organisation’, they saw people made in God’s image. People in immediate need, yes; but people to be helped and empowered beyond the crisis. When they began their work, those leading the various projects did not know where they would be going or what might result. That was not the issue. They didn’t need to know that; only that they trusted something – or someone – beyond themselves. This is the essence of social action or mercy ministries.

Biblical social action is not social work: it is the work of the Kingdom to bring God’s justice and mercy to bear at numerous physical points on earth – to people and in places. It is the very essence and will of heaven as heaven interacts with, or breaks through into earth. At these points where heaven intersects it is the answer to that part of the Lord’s Prayer where we ask that his Kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

The individuals involved, the churches promoting the ministries, or the resulting charities or social enterprises – are discovering and pursuing those works that God says that he has prepared in advance. These are Christians working out the gospel and what it truly means to have been saved by God’s amazing grace.

My personal observation is that all this is more than heaven simply ‘touching earth’, as some might put it. To me that phrase underplays both the reality of the need and the impact that Christ’s Bride can and should make. In a fallen world, the need to bring God’s justice to bear on areas such as food poverty, joblessness, homelessness, slavery, inequality, oppression or persecution is great and these are not concerns outside the gospel or the Church’s calling.

When Jesus opened the scroll of the prophet Isaiah (in Luke 4), this was no mere ‘touch’ of heaven on earth. At this point in history, as Jesus announced the Kingdom and framed his ministry. It was the culmination of the restoration narratives of the Old Testament through the Passover liberation of Exodus, the introduction of the laws of sabbath and jubilee and so on. The redemption story would lead ultimately to the cross where God’s future world arrived in the present. And there has been no pause in the Kingdom since. The King is here! He called people into the Kingdom then – and still does; he subdued the kingdom of darkness then – and still does; he healed people then – and still does; he preached good news to the poor then – and still does.

We know the end of the story; it is a new heaven and a new earth. But there is more than just a distant happy ending to be hoped for, the future promise is also the inspiration now to see people empowered and raised up, circumstances changed, and a lasting difference made. When we see God working in acts of mercy and care we see something of the Kingdom of Heaven amongst us.

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