Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Bible's First, Final and Foremost Focus

"The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." 
- Stephen Covey

After a lifetime of reflecting on the narrative of scripture, I've concluded that its main theme is that of God's love for enemies. In other words, God's ultimate purpose, hinted at in the Bible's beginning but becoming abundantly clear in its conclusion, is that of restoring what is broken in creation and reconciling all that has become divided and alienated.

God's story begins with the shalom we call Eden, centers on the cross-based, enemy-loving life and resurrection of Jesus, and ends with a new heavens and a restored earth. In Christ, God comes to bring an end to all of the enmity that exists between us and our Creator and between us and our fellow creatures. All alienation is over.

I used to wonder about the meaning of the phrase in Psalm 23, "You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies". Why not in the presence of my friends? Does God simply invite our enemies so they can look on with envy as we good people enjoy a table spread with abundance?

No, God is inviting us to a Eucharist in which former enemies are being transformed into friends of God and friends with one another.

Here's one of my favorite examples of this main theme, found in Paul's letter to the Ephesians (3:14-18), in which he addresses the foremost enmity of his time:  

For Christ is our living peace. He has made a unity of the conflicting elements of Jew and Gentile by breaking down the barrier which lay between us. By his sacrifice he removed the hostility of the Law, with all its commandments and rules, and made in himself out of the two, Jew and Gentile, one new humanity, thus producing peace. For he reconciled both to God by the sacrifice of one body on the cross, and by this act made utterly irrelevant the antagonism between them. Then he came and told both you who were far from God and us who were near that the war was over. And it is through him that both of us now can approach the Father in the one Spirit.  
 - J.B. Phillips translation

This is God's dream. I want to make it mine, and pray that every congregation of believers becomes a living demonstration of divided, broken and alienated human beings becoming one, truly a foretaste of great things to come.
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