What is one thing you would change about the world to help make it perfect?
When God finished creating the world, he sat back on his throne and said it was “Good” (Gen. 1:31). Creation was complete, perfect, flawless, complete…it was right-side up in every way. When sin entered the world in Genesis 3, all of creation was turned upside down. Sinfulness deeply permeated everything. That is why the whole creation is waiting eagerly for redemption (Rom. 8:22-23). At the end of time, when Christ returns, redemption will come more fully. What does that redemption look like? God’s full presence will be the reality for his creation, there will be no more tears, no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. Jesus stands up from his throne and says, “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:3-5). All things that were upside down will be put right side up again. As it says in verse 4, “for the old order of things has passed away.”
God chose Israel to be a light to the nations but what does this mean? When God called Abram, he promised that the nation that would come from him would bless the entire world (Gen 12:2-3). The blessing isn’t that the world would find a new religion to follow and a new way to think about the world around them. The blessing would be that the practices of this new group of people would right the wrongs of the world and bring it back into God’s desire and design for his creation. Religion is the set of practices that should lead a group of people to right action. This is why James 1:27 defines true religion as taking care of widows and orphans. Israel continually struggled to rise to their calling to be God’s light to the nations around them. Instead, they wanted to be like the nations (1 Samuel 8:5). They rejected God as their king (8:7) and desired the ways of the upside-down world. They rejected what their religion was pointing them to, redemption of the world.
The prophets who came to bring correction to Israel called them back to their true religion. Amos 5 calls for justice for the oppressed. Ezekiel 47 paints a picture of God’s presence restoring the Temple so that the river of life brings life to death around it. Earlier in chapter 37, the dry bones in the valley are given new life. Jonah isn’t a story about a preacher who didn’t want to preach. The focus of the book is that God loves the Ninevites too (Jonah 4:10-11) while Jonah wants to see them destroyed. There are more passages in the First Testament to look at, but these passages point back to the laws given in Exodus and Leviticus. Many of the laws are in place to keep people from being marginalized, oppressed, and taken advantage of (i.e. Ex 22:21; Lev 19:33-34). All of these teachings are found in Luke’s Gospel and seen in how Jesus interacts with people. Luke 10:27 sums up the Law, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
What we see in Jesus is upside-down living in the world. He came to fulfill the Law and bring Israel back to its calling to set the world right for the glory of God. This isn’t a new teaching but fulfilling an old teaching. God, in Jesus Christ, shows the way for what upside-down living looks like. The Kingdom of God looks upside-down to the world, but it is really right-side up. Everything we have talked about in Luke’s Gospel builds up to the embodiment of the Kingdom ethic which Jesus demonstrates fully by getting on the cross. He calls us to follow him in this ethic. This is why Paul says we are Christ’s ambassadors to the world, and we are to be about reconciling the world to God in Christ (2 Cor. 5).
I’ve said a lot in this blog and have said very little about where we are going in Luke’s Gospel as we finish up this part of our series. The Gospel isn’t just about Jesus’ death on the cross to save us from our sins. The sacrifice is essential, but it isn’t the full Gospel. The Gospel is fully realized in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we look at Jesus Christ in his resurrection, we see the right-side up man in a world that is upside-down with sin. Luke 24 shows us stories of eyes being made open to the resurrection. We are called to live out the resurrection reality in this broken world.
What in your life around you do you see that is broken? What would it look like to bring the resurrection reality to that brokenness? Another way to ask this: What is one thing you would change about the world to help make it perfect?