MiNY series - Week 4 - Jesus changes everything

20th October 2014
Mark Jackson
Group of people posing for the camera in New York

Some of you have been asking me where the week 4 blog post is … given I was in New York for four weeks … well spotted! The simple truth is that there is so much coming at you each day on the Redeemer Intensive that it takes a while to process one’s thoughts and discern what are the one or two main things the Lord is weighing upon your heart. That said, with increasing clarity, I am appreciating more and more just how much Jesus changes everything.

Eternal life starts now

It’s easy sometimes to think that Jesus is only about getting you into heaven when you die or that Jesus is someone who only really becomes relevant the closer you get to death. But the joy of following Jesus is that eternal life starts now (John 17:3 ), which means he is interested in all aspects of our lives in the here and now. Jesus wants to transform our friendships, marriages, families, relationships at work, attitudes at work, attitudes to self, culture, justice, our city. And there were two areas which Redeemer particularly brought to my attention:

 – Faith and work 

 – Ministries of mercy

Faith & work

Our work matters to God! The frenetic pace of London life can mean most of our time is spent at work – and most of our pain can be at work too; amongst our colleagues, some of whom we may find hard to work with; or under bosses, some of whom can be overbearing. No matter how much we enjoy our work, it can be stressful, with tough decisions to make on a daily basis, in an environment where any mention of one’s faith may be frowned upon. What do we do? Can Jesus make a difference? Does He even care about our work?

Yes, he does. The Bible has a tremendous amount to say about the importance of work … its value and purpose … and the transformative effect that Christians can have at work. Pete and I long for every member of Inspire to have a rich and thorough biblical understanding of work … not seeking our identity or meaning from it, yet enjoying it … free from the pressure to overwork, yet working hard to the best of our God-given abilities … not tempted to keep quiet about our faith, but to live distinctive lives as those who have thought through some of the difficult ethical choices we face in our different work contexts.

It’s why we’re excited to have one member of Inspire on the recently inaugurated Ergon Fellowship at All Souls, Langham Place, ‘which is a nine month programme designed to equip workplace disciples to realise a deeper biblical understanding of their paid work.’ But this sort of training is something we want to offer at Inspire too. To that end, it would be great to hear from you: What are some of your current joys and struggles at work? What are some of the ethical questions you are wrestling through with your line of work? How best do you think we can equip you to live for Christ in your workplace?

Ministries of mercy

I have to admit that I have been quite wary in the past of those who champion ministries of mercy or social action or seeking the peace of the city. That is because I have often been unpersuaded by the biblical arguments put forward by those who champion it. A closer reading of cited passages like Matthew 25:31-46  reveal that what is being talked about here is the way Christians are to treat and love one another within the Church; not a general call to feed/clothe/visit anyone. That is not to create a ‘we only care about ourselves’ attitude. Quite the opposite Jesus says that when people see the way Christians love each other (sharing possessions, homes, feeding the poor amongst us, helping our fellow Christians out of debt) – it is one of the most powerful evangelistic witnesses.

That said, Galatians 6 does command us to ‘do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.’This is not a sole ‘proof text’ for ministries of mercy but instead picks up on a rich biblical theme that the church should be showing love and concern not only for its own family members but for the wider society in which it is based. Indeed, if the outside world are to see the way Christians love each other, there needs to be some contact with the world! And given the current cultural climate in London where people are increasingly unwilling to enter a church, let alone be interested in listening to the Christian message, this focus on doing good in our neighbourhood, and in our city, takes on increasing importance and relevance as we seek to share Jesus with people.

We need to be careful in how we think about this. First, we must keep a priority on speaking the gospel message. If, out of love, we are concerned for people’s well-being then we must have a concern for their primary need – reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ. Secondly, we need to be careful in how we apply this. It might mean a centrally organised ministry but that can sometimes prevent us all from taking the initiative and thinking practically about how each of us can do our part in doing good to all. 

For example, some of us may have a God-given concern for the poor, others a God-motivated passion for justice – whether it is with the unemployed, homeless, immigrant, mentally ill, aged, youth – whatever the particular God-given love that we may have for others, we want to be finding ways to express that love. For some you will find yourselves doing it naturally … for others there might be Christian organisations we can volunteer with who focus on one of these mercy ministries. Again, this is not to lose our gospel focus or dilute it … absolutely not … but it is to live out one of the fruits of the gospel.

Questions for us to think through are: What would it look like for us as a church to ‘do good to all’ in the Old Street area? Are there any Christian charities/organisations operating in the area that we could partner with? Or in London at large? Could you help with the CAP Money course or join the Homework helper team? Let us know your thoughts …