MDR in the Mission of God 2 – The Story
Welcome back! Your participation in this conversation is a great blessing to me. You’ll have to bear with me, but I think that I need one more post of foundation before we get into the meat. The people who share their class time with me are getting to know that I’m rather like an old dog – I circle and circle and circle before I bed down. This is one of those times.
Last time, we talked about the purpose of Scripture. “Scripture, like Eden and Tabernacle and Torah and Temple (and Jesus, according to the Fourth Gospel and Paul’s letter to Colosse), is a gift given to reveal the heart of YHWH God.” If that is the case, what is Scripture? What is this book (or anthology) we’ve got? What is its nature?
What follows isn’t exactly original, but it is my version of ideas shared by several biblical scholars. The biblical narrative includes many different genres of ancient literature. Prose, law code, poetry (lyric and narrative), wisdom couplets, and apocalyptic are among the kinds of writing we find when we open our Bibles, with the grand prize for quantity going to poetry. The amount of Hebrew poetry in the Bible is greater than the full length of the New Testament. Out of all this diversity of form, though, emerges one unified story: call it a drama in five(ish) acts.
The idea of a dramatic narrative works, according to NT Wright, because none of Scripture was written DIRECTLY to or for you and me. It is as if scholars discovered a new Shakespeare (or Marlowe, or Sophocles, but let’s run with Shakespeare) folio whose existence no one even suspected. Written at the height of his brilliance, with full mastery of his craft and imagination, the new manuscript fully develops themes, suggestions, and entendres found in the author’s other works. You read and read with heart pounding with excitement and tension as scene after scene flies by. You read Act 5, Scene 1, turn the page, and find only ragged edges where the rest of the pages in the folio should be.
Too incredibly well-written to ignore, but also too well-written for anyone to ‘complete’. No ending would suffice. So the manuscript is turned over to a master troupe of Shakespearean actors, men and women whose lives have been soaked in his words and style and motifs. They read the play, study the play, EAT the play – they so deeply internalize each character that when the curtain rises on Act 5, they are prepared. FULLY prepared, NOT to merely perform a rote imitation of what happened in the previous acts, but to act out all the implications of the earlier lines in this new and climactic context. While they have no script, they have the authoritative text, the authoritative events and words so deeply ingrained in their being that when they move, speak, and act, it is with complete integrity with what has gone before. They are free to improvise, because neither the author nor the director has provided them with a script. They are NOT free to do whatever they want; they have a plot and themes and characters to fulfill. Each actor is merely called to pour all their creativity, their energies, their very life into working out their own role in the drama, in accord with the narrative provided by the great writer.
“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that it is God at work in you, both to will and to do for his good pleasure.” Not, “save yourself because God is working for you,” but “live out the full implications of what God has done for you, because God is working in you…”
Act I – Creation – The story begins with the world as it was meant to be – VERY GOOD. The pinnacle of creation, humankind, shaped in the image of the Creator God, is set in the midst of Eden to be loving and faithful stewards, reflecting their creator’s glory throughout creation.
Act II – The Fall – The world is plunged into darkness as the steward seizes the throne. Things get worse and worse, darker and darker. Blood flows over the whole earth as the stewards wreck everything in insane efforts to make themselves gods.
Act III – Israel – God calls a people to himself to be a light to the nations. He makes great and universal promises to Abraham. He rescues Abraham’s children and establishes them, set them in the midst of Canaan to be loving and faithful stewards, reflecting their rescuer’s glory throughout creation.
Act IV – Jesus – Israel rejected her calling. Sometimes they acted smug and self-righteous towards the nations because they had the blessings of God’s election. Other times they were worse than the very people they were to model righteousness for. The solution became the problem, and since through Scripture and Israel righteousness was not displayed for the world, so the Creator God wrapped flesh around himself and comes in the person of Jesus. In Jesus, we see the world with God among us. It is ATTRACTIVE. It is NOT self-righteous, but compassionate. Especially with people suffering in situations that will appear as we discuss MDR.
Act V – Commission – Jesus lived among us in the flesh for 30-35 years, and then returned to the Father, all the while creating an utterly diverse community of faith and commissioning them to put righteousness on display, to be a city on a hill where people would see God and come to Him. In a phrase, He set the church in the midst of the world to be loving and faithful stewards, reflecting their creator’s glory throughout creation. (WE ARE HERE)
Epilogue – Consummation – Jesus returns, consummating his victory over sin and death, establishing righteousness forever and flooding creation with “the knowledge of the glory of God, as the waters cover the sea.” Revelation appears in Scripture as partially an epilogue, but suspiciously resembling the beginning of another play.
Why all this foundation about the purpose and nature of Scripture? Simply, the Bible is not a constitution, a code of statutes, a law code like we treat it when we go sniffing around looking for rules to legislate over the messes the people around us get themselves into. Scripture has laws, certainly, but nowhere near enough laws to cope with the fullness of the tragedy of human sin and perversion and degradation. Even in the law narratives, the point of the narrative is to say that the law reveals the heart of the lawgiver. We’ve got to start reading the Bible, not as progressive revelation or from error to truth or even as a mysterious puzzle-box for us to rearrange according to our fancy, but as a marvelously unified revelation always telling the same story and always revealing the same god. We who are sent, like Scripture, to reveal the one unique and universal true God, must recognize that that God reveals himself in the midst of a world that has deeply and wholly rebelled against his loving and compassionate righteousness. When he does reveal Himself, it is to alleviate the suffering sin creates, to set right what has gone horribly wrong, and to reveal himself in all his wondrous magnificence. It is from THIS perspective that we will approach Scripture’s message on marriage and divorce and remarriage from a missional perspective.
in HIS love,