“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (NIV)
Humanity is spiritually hard-wired to do good in this world. Yes, from a Christian perspective we live in a fallen world and experience the evil of pandemics and poverty as well as personal and corporate corruption. However, this is not our original design.
In the Christian tradition, believers in Jesus are not delivered from sin, death, and hell so that they can idly sit in a worldly holding tank until Christ returns.
Deliverance is the initial dimension of God’s plan – and not the end game. We are saved for good works to be done in the here-and-now.
Christians know that they are saved from individual and systemic sin through the forgiving work of Jesus Christ. It’s an act of sheer grace on God’s part. A believer in Jesus is not spiritually reborn through her effort any more than a baby’s birthed because of her own doing. It is thoroughly the work of God. Even the faith needed to believe is a gift graciously provided by God.
This, however, is far from the whole story. God has plans and purposes in mind for his people. Christians were birthed into a new spiritual community with new commitments to do all kinds of good deeds. It’s as if sin is a weight or an obstacle that has been removed so that living a life full of goodness can now move forward and do its work.
To be “saved” is to be freed for a vigorous moral life deeply concerned with altruistic actions in a world full of need.
There is a profound spiritual wound which underlies the great problems of our world. Behind so many of our world issues are matters of the spirit. The unseen world is just as real as the world which is seen. Just as we know germs are present, they are real, and we must account for them – so there is spiritual world very much real and we ignore it at our great peril.
Thus, it seems to me that spiritual people, including Christians delivered for the purpose of good deeds, are to graciously, wisely, and lovingly agitate for earthly change. Expecting human governments or corporate systems to take the lead in moral transformation is like asking the fox to guard the hen house.
I will admit to you that I don’t much have the stomach right now for what seems to me to be a useless and emotionally energy consuming debate among some Christian communities about whether to gather on Easter Sunday, or not. As redeemed people, delivered for a purpose, I believe it is sage to put our focus on discovering how we can support and bless the essential services laboring to keep a pandemic at bay. God has raised us up for such a time as this, if we have the spiritual eyes to see.
Christians, churches, and spiritual communities must labor at the gates of hell for the lives of women caught in sex trafficking; provide uplift and the tools to a better life for those in grinding poverty and hunger; challenge the idolatry of a materialist culture; and, hundreds of other realities of living in a fallen broken world, including the scourge smack in front of our faces of disease and death.
As Christians, God has delivered us from sin so that we will do good in this world. God, in his sovereignty, has placed you and I in places and positions for just this time so that we will do good works, both big and small, tackling immense issues as well as little acts of kindness.
Doing good comes in all sizes, and all of us are to share our lives for the betterment of humanity.
After all, we really are our brother’s keeper.
God Almighty, I pray that your people may not lose heart in this world. May you strengthen your church with spiritual power so that the words and ways of Jesus will ground them for faithful service to this planet you have created. May Christians everywhere be rooted and established in the divine love which supports good works done in the humility of a gentle spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.