Active Participants: Part 1
We live in a society which places a great deal of emphasis on consuming. Put simply, most people binge watch TV shows, buy lots of stuff, and eat lots of food. We consume. Furthermore, we often associate consumption with service. We expect the TV provider to have good customer service, and we expect the cashier at the store as well as the waiter at the restaurant to serve us and serve us well. If there is not good service, then we won’t be able to consume efficiently. This mindset can result in us becoming quite passive. It’s about what others can do for me.
Our society’s leanings in this direction have also impacted our spiritual lives. Without going into great detail, it is interesting to think about how church architecture has shifted. The case can be made that in the earliest years of the church, the table of the Lord was at the center of the gathering. These days, it is not uncommon to see a full-fledged stage complete with theater seating. The folks arrive to consume their religious goods for the week and expect that the customer service will meet their expectations.
My point in all of this is not to wag the finger of condemnation at others, but rather encourage us to examine ourselves. Are we ever guilty of “going to church” in order to consume some religion before the start of a new week?
From the beginning, God has wanted creation to actively participate. In the creation account of Genesis, God allows Adam and Eve to participate. God creates the animals and then allows Adam and Eve to exercise kingly dominion over that which has been created (Genesis 1:26). Part of this task involves Adam giving names to the animals God made (Genesis 2:20). God also asks Adam and Eve to be the ones to create more people (Genesis 1:28). God wants the creation to participate with Him. It’s really quite remarkable if you stop and think about it.
We see Jesus doing essentially the same thing in His ministry. Jesus had the power to do all things, and yet He often asks others to take part. Perhaps the clearest example of this is the feeding of the 5000. “Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes” (Matthew 14:19).
Christ is no longer with us in terms of His flesh and blood body. But the body of Christ is still present in the world. When the writings of Paul refer to the church as Jesus’ body, this is participatory language. “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. … For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones” (Ephesians 1:22-23; 5:29-20).
As we think about God’s desire that we participate, a couple of other verses are interesting. 2 Timothy 2:12 states, “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.” Similar language is found in Revelation 20:6. Keeping in mind the apocalyptic imagery, it says that those who are “priests of God…will reign with Him for a thousand years.” We don’t have the space to go deeply into this, but it is definitely participatory language. That’s it for now. Be looking for part two next week!