God’s redemptive plan involves individuals like you and me. That’s great news, but there’s even more to it.
Too often these days, Christians are known more for what we’re against than what we’re for. That’s not to say we shouldn’t resist that which is dangerous or evil, or that we shouldn’t react when culture changes in the wrong direction. We’d be crazy, even unfaithful, not to be against such things which harm everyone, not just Christians.
But “no” is never the final word of a Christ-follower. Whenever we say “no” as Christians, it’s always because there’s a louder, better Gospel “yes” to be proclaimed to the world. And so, the final “re” words in our vocabulary cannot be resist and reject. The Scriptures, especially those places that talk about Gospel and salvation, are full of other “re-words,” like redeem and renew and reconcile and restore. These re-words do more than assure us of heaven; they describe the vital role that the church and individual Christians play in God’s true, overall, unfolding story of His world.
When we fail to see this it’s because of our truncated grasp of God’s story—the story of Scripture. As Warren Smith of WORLD News Group and I flesh out in our new book, “Restoring All Things,” Scripture is the grand story of how God, in Christ, is redeeming and restoring His creation to its original good, true, and beautiful state.
That’s the primary way the Scripture has been understood for most of the Christian era: and it’s enormously liberating—it takes us beyond our isolated selves and makes us a part of something much grander. God has made us, in Christ, participants in His story of restoration. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” So, reconciled ones—like you and me—are called to be reconcilers!
What does this reconciliation and restoration look like? Well, as Warren and I show in “Restoring All Things,” it looks like Christians addressing brokenness wherever they see it—helping the poor, embracing sound economics, building a culture of life, rescuing slaves, reforming education, restoring criminals to our communities. It looks like racial reconciliation, Christian scholarship, and offering marriage to a sexually exhausted culture. And of course it looks like the Church proclaiming to sinners how they can be rescued from their sin and given new life.
This is what we call restoration from the middle. Too many Christians are focusing their attention only on the top of culture, complaining about what’s happening in DC and Hollywood, where few of us have any impact. And yet we let what’s happening there steal our hope about what’s possible here, in our own spheres of influence. But cultures aren’t only defined by who’s in office and who’s popular. And the libertarian “let the individual and the marketplace take care of things” isn’t a Christian response to the brokenness we see.
You see it’s in the middle, between the government and the individual, where cultures need to be built: through the strengthening of churches, families, local associations, and community groups. It’s in these “little platoons,” as Chuck Colson called them, where our Christian witness and service can still make such a substantial impact.
In “Restoring All Things,” Warren and I call Christians back to the middle. And you need to know, he and I are story people. So we tell stories throughout the book of everyday people who are redeeming and renewing specific areas of culture, and who are addressing all different kinds of brokenness.
— by John Stonestreet
Stonestreet is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and is heard on Breakpoint. Copyright© 2014 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.