Living Our Purpose in a Broken World
We have taken on the purpose of God. How do we go about living that purpose in a broken world?
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life — the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us — that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ... we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.1 Jn 1 (ESV)
God, Jesus and Holy Spirit live with us
We have established that God and Christ dwell with us, and that through God we can do anything. To this we can add the indwelling of Holy Spirit. This means that we are free to dream big, to resolve to do amazing things. Dwelling within us is the most amazing power to overcome the world. How do we go about living our purpose then, given this amazing power?
We are confronted with a world at war with God and indeed with itself. We are also confronted with an Christian world that is often at war within itself.
John’s first epistle spells it out in black and white terms. We are with God or we are against him.
Living our purpose therefore means to walk in the light and dwell in fellowship with God. This creates a blueprint for life as a servant of God.
If God’s purpose at least initially, is to fill the earth with His glory, what does this really mean for us?
Eden’s failing informs us somewhat of what it is that God is seeking. It appears that God does not want humans that are automatons or passively obedient. God has a temporal purpose to fill the earth with His glory. He desires that the members of His household, fill the earth and that His love and peace fill their hearts. God wants us to become His adult sons. Paul provides some insight into how an adult “son” of God might behave in 1 Cor 13.
Living our Purpose in Love
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.
[Love] does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away, as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.1 Cor 13 (ESV)
Becoming an Adult
A child learns certain behaviours by rote. It takes sometimes a lifetime of experience to learn the true deep meaning behind the behaviours. Sadly, some of us stall somewhere along the path. We fail before we even start living our purpose.
God calls us to a life of respect, honour, gentleness, love and harmony with Him first. This carries over even to our relationship with the world even in its darkness. God loves all men unconditionally. This is not something that everyone accepts but it is demonstrably true. His love is shown in the giving of His son for a world of darkness. The consequence of sin is death. Repentance sees God immediately reach out in love to take the sinner into His arms.
Let’s demonstrate this from the story of David and Uriah.
Uriah the Hittite
Uriah was a Hittite which means that he had left behind a world of sexual immorality. His world included institutionalised prostitution. He left this world to marry an Israelitish woman. He wanted to follow a king who he appears to have greatly respected and loved. David to Uriah seems to have been the embodiment of all that was worthy and Godly in a world that had no love for God.
We probably know the story (2 Sam 11 and 12) as it unfolds in all of its horror and sordid detail. Ultimately, Uriah is left to the arrows under the walls of Rabbah in Ammon. It is likely that Uriah knew he had been left to die and one wonders what he thought as he saw his doom approaching. Did he guess at the cause or did he die in ignorance?
A Horrible Offence
Nevertheless, as in Eden, the offence was horrible and from a human perspective, we would have no difficulty in seeing David struck down for the hypocrite that he was. This man had looked up to him. He had left behind a world of immorality to marry his “one little ewe lamb” (2 Sam 12:3) and the man that he looked up to, that he followed and loved, acted immorally and took his one little ewe lamb. Worse than that, to cover his own corrupt behaviour, David killed Uriah as certainly as if he fired the arrow himself.
As God looked upon this, as he watched Uriah die (it would have been a mercy really if Uriah did not suspect anything), one imagines God thinking, “Ok, I have Uriah with me. Now, what do I do with David to recover him from darkness?”
We know David’s response. Nathan confronts David,
“Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.”2 Sam 12:9 (ESV)
David’s response is immediate and so is God’s:
David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.”2 Sam 12:13-14
Forgiveness but consequences.
God loves us all unconditionally but despite that love, there are consequences for our behaviour.
Our Love for this Broken World
Can we love the world in which we dwell any less than the One who dwells in our hearts does? In that love is still obviously space for us to despise the actions of a world devoted to darkness.
So how should we be living the purpose of God in this world?
We are called to wrestle with this world of darkness:
“For ours is not a conflict with mere flesh and blood, but with the despotisms, the empires, the forces that control and govern this dark world – the spiritual hosts of evil arrayed against us in the heavenly warfare.”Eph 6:12 (Weymouth)
That struggle however is a struggle carried out in gentleness, otherwise how do the people we engage with have the space to reflect and repent?
Unless we live in peace, we cannot demonstrate Him who is peace and love. We are not living our purpose.
James tells us of the wisdom from above:
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.Jas 3:13-18 (ESV)
A Gentle War
We go to war with a world of darkness in a spirit of gentleness as Peter entreats us:
For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.
Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.1 Pet 3:10-17 (ESV)
We seek peace
This spirit of gentleness is difficult to achieve. Hate the sin but love the sinner. We seek peace with God, and we seek to bring others from their warfare with God to peace with Him. We can’t do this by exacerbating hate through opposition. Hate holds us back from living our purpose in God.
There is a Wiradjuri word (Wiradjuri is the language of the indigenous population of Australia living in central western New South Wales) Yindyamarra which expresses some of this philosophy of living. Yindyamarra speaks of respect, but also of and gentleness, honour and learning to do things slowly. (ABC Radio National (Jason O’Neill), 2018). There is a similar concept in Jain Hindu philosophy.
Gentleness but not Passivity
The difference is that ours is not a passive philosophy. It has more to do with Ghandi’s philosophy of non-violent resistance to wrong doing. We resist darkness and show light.
We demonstrate the light within us and wrestle first of all with the darkness within us and then with the darkness of the world around us. Christians must stubbornly oppose the darkness of despots, empires, controlling forces in this dark world and of course, the darkness of those who appoint themselves the spiritual elites.
Our purpose is to shine light in a world of darkness, such that by observing us, it is evident to the observer that God is light with no darkness at all. To do this, we speak immediately and directly about the darkness we see, and we speak clearly and honestly of the light of God.
We move gently in a world of violence and hate. We visit those who do not have God and Christ dwelling in them and we help them in their affliction and ultimately, we invite them into the light.
In doing this, we drive out the darkness that seeks to envelop us, keeping ourselves unstained by the darkness, even as we enter it to save those that are lost.