I recently had a Facebook conversation with a Christian woman I don’t know. At one point she said “We have to ‘occupy’ the world until Jesus comes.” I asked her what she meant and she said, “be an occupation force in the world until He comes!” Her statement made me think about how Christians view the world. It seems like we have what might be called a ‘love-hate’ relationship with the world. We are told that the world (and the flesh) are as nothing; only God’s kingdom is truely worthwhile. Yet, if we simply observe what Jesus did, we can easily see that he loved the world with an all-consuming and passionate love. [John 3:16 for example]
How ought Christians to see the world?
I feel the mixed ‘love-hate’ relationship we have with the world leaves us divided and weakened. And this wasn’t how Jesus saw the world. Somehow, he was 100% for the world and for the kingdom of God at the same time. He had a ‘both/and’ point of view, not an ‘either/or’ point of view. He loved both the world and the kingdom, not either/or. So how do you explain phrases like “You must serve either God or Mammon.” Doesn’t that mean we have to choose either God or the world? How can we serve God 100% of the time and ‘Mammon’ 0% of the time, yet also love the world? Only by being very clear about what Mammon is, as well as how Jesus / God sees the world.
‘Already but not yet’ mindset
In Jesus’ mind the world is struggling to become what God intended when he created it. Jesus came into the world to be an agent of transformation in assisting the world to attain its divinely intended purpose. [Ephesians 1:10] As a result of Jesus death and resurrection, the world is already on that path but not yet there. Jesus radically transformed the world’s journey — by injecting the Holy Spirit into mankind’s struggle to bring the world to the end God intends. So, how can Jesus (and we Christians as his brothers and sisters) hate the very creation that he is saving? And what is Mammon? It is the other purpose that competes with God’s purpose — that of evil. Either we serve God’s transformational purpose or evil’s, but there is no compromise.
In practical terms, how do we only serve God’s purpose in a very complex world?
I come back here to my Facebook conversation with the woman who saw Christians as an ‘occupation army’ in the world until Jesus comes again. The problem I have with her metaphor is that it puts up a boundary between Christians and the rest of humanity. “We” are the occupiers and “they” are the ones inside the prison camp who must be guarded against lest they escape and defeat us. Perhaps she didn’t see “occupying” in those terms but at the very least it would be hard for her to explain the metaphor to non-Christians. The taint of “we / they” is very strong in being an ‘occupier.’ It divides us from the very people Jesus came to save and serve.
I believe one of the good consequences of the current ‘crisis’ in the decline of churches is that it forces us to rethink our mindset. When Christendom was in full swing, we could believe we were an invincible army marching toward victory — but now we are weak. But as Paul said, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” [2 Corinthians 12:10] We now have no choice but to rely on the Holy Spirit to help us reflect on and better understand our role in Jesus’ purpose. Only with the proper mindset (that of Jesus) can we do God’s will in the struggle to bring the world back to God’s purpose. And we Christians don’t know how to do that! That admission, in humility, is a good signal that we are now being made ready to do His will. Christians cannot approach the world as ‘occupiers’ with all the answers!