The Tragic End of the Transactional Gospel
Recently, most churches in America celebrated Easter, or Resurrection Sunday.
The “Big-Day” within the Christian calendar.
The day of all days, so to speak.
Or, as one pastor-friend of mine used to say, “Easter is to Christians what Super Bowl Sunday is to football players.”
More than a Day, Easter is a Season!
Easter, however, is designed to be celebrated and experienced as a Season, not just a day.
It’s actually a season of 50 days during which we bump into the resurrected Messiah and find ourselves transformed by experiencing His presence in our daily world.
It’s a shame that, for so many, Easter is only a day.
Make no mistake about it, the resurrection day of Jesus is a public and universal proclamation of His victory over sin and the reclamation of what it means to be human!
And it’s equally true to proclaim that the day of Christ’s resurrection is a monumental victory for all humankind!
Because of his resurrection, we (humanity) move from the plague of disorder passed down through the ages to the hope of reorder made possible through the spectacular victory of Christ.
A New Way of Being
Yes, the resurrection of Christ inaugurates the great reordering of Humankind.
The ultimate outcome of resurrection, then, is that we can now – once again (as always intended) – live lives that are fully human!
So, what’s it mean to be human?
Well, we can’t learn that in just one day.
It takes a season, or longer.
To be human is to be image bearers of the most high.
Lest we forget, this image-bearing is the initial vocation. As such, it’s one that’s accorded to all of humankind.
Recall the words of Genesis 1:26 – 27:
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness! Let them rule over the fish of the sea, over the flying creatures of the sky, over the livestock, over the whole earth, and over every crawling creature that crawls on the land.” 27 God created humankind in His image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.
Image of God as Relationship and Representatives
While the verses above have seen their fair share of controversial interpretation through the years, there are at least two realities, in my opinion, to which “image of God” speaks with certainty.
- The image of God means that we’ve been created with a unique capacity to be in a relationship with God.
- The image of God makes humankind God’s representatives on earth.
So, to be made in the image of God is to be made with the distinct purpose of having a life-giving relationship with Him, which in turn propels us into being God-glorifying representatives (vice-regents, ambassadors, etc.) of Him in this world.
This is, in other words, what it means to be fully human. Anything short of this is less than human, in the biblical drama at least.
Notice also there is a sacred rhythm within the divine image. It’s the rhythm of being-doing, being-doing, being-doing.
The central problem of humankind is that we’ve distorted the image and disordered the rhythm.
Early and often, rather than being content in a relationship with Him and representing His good in the world, we’ve chosen to put others before Him (most notably self) and brought self-interest rather than God’s interests into the world.
It’s in this basic, but earth-altering way, that we have distorted God’s glorious image and malformed it into self-image and self-absorption.
Secondly, we’ve disordered the rhythm by moving from being-doing to doing-being. While we are created to be with God and then to serve Him from the overflow, we’ve flipped that rhythm on its head by spending centuries trying to find our sense of being based on how good we are at doing.
That is why the season of Easter is necessary.
The season of Easter proclaims that the reign of God, reestablished through His son’s victory on the cross, restores and reorders the image of God, imprinted on every human life!
Foundationally, then, the Season of Easter is a celebration of re-humaning us. Or, more precisely, reimaging us by restoring and reordering what we’ve distorted and disordered!
The Easter season, which culminates in the celebration of Pentecost, provides much needed space to reflect on and absorb the truth claims of the resurrected Messiah.
A Resurrected People Living into a Resurrected Reality
As we reflect on – or contemplate – the new reality the resurrection puts into play, we also experience new hope. A hope that we can now live from and into a resurrected reality.
This resurrected reality proclaims that God’s children now – like never before – are empowered to reclaim the original image-bearing vocation of enjoying God and stewarding His good gifts in His good world.
This happens as we receive the disruptive power of God into our lives and allow Him to upend the internal disorder – to which we’ve grown all too familiar – and trust Him to reorder our lives and invite us to partner with Him in the restoration of His world.
Now, through the divine, self-giving love, alive in us through Christ – empowered by His Spirit – WE can reclaim what Christ has reordered! That is, the creational and sacred human vocation of bearing the image of God in Christ.
The Tragic End of the Transactional Gospel
The implications of this great resurrection reality couldn’t be more life-changing or mind-bending. Specifically as they apply to the modern church and, more precisely, to the administration of the Gospel, or – as the earliest followers proclaimed – the Good News!
When you’ve heard the Gospel or the Good News, you’ve likely heard it presented in a manner similar to this:
- You are a sinner who needs to be rescued.
- Respond to Jesus and you’ll have the joy of waiting for heaven, your eternal reward
The Good News, however, at least according to the Scriptures, begins before my personal sin and goes beyond my individual redemption. Further, it was never primarily about me (the individual) getting into heaven when I die (though it certainly speaks to that), but about God getting heaven into me, through the reign of His son who sits (now and forevermore) on the throne of His kingdom.
The Good News: Reclaims, Re-orders, Restores
This Good News is the news of the resurrection-day proclamation that reclaims, re-orders, and restores the original order and intent (rather than formulaic rescue and wait until the end for reward) of creation.
The Good News proclaimed through this narrative reframes the original story as it’s originally told and looks toward the final story that God has already begun to tell.
Within this larger resurrection-day Good News narrative we go forth – as a reconstituted humanity – and join Him in His efforts on behalf of His world.
By being restored to our fully-human selves of being in a relationship with Him and being on mission as His representatives, vice-regents, ambassadors, coheirs, etc., with Him
This happens by way of at least four vital but recently vacated means:
- By Revitalizing the Cultural Mandate.
- An original component of what it means to be image-bearers is that we are to go forth into God’s good world and be fruitful and multiply,
- We do this as we cultivate and tend (express dominion, not domination) the culture in which we live.
- By Reinvigorating the Great Commandment.
- As the only way to live in this world.
- By Reframing the Great Commission
- By realizing that these two rhythms will shape – over time – a cultural context in which the Great Commission will flourish and bear much fruit.
- By Recognizing the Real-Time Presence of the Kingdom of God in Christ.
More on each of these as we move through this Season of Easter!
Disrupting to Renew!
2 Replies to “The Tragic End of the Transactional Gospel”
EXCELLENT word brother! We are so on the same page!
Thanks Joe! Great being together this morning. Sorry I had to leave early!
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