God on a Mission—Freedom and Love

May 1st, 2012 / 53 Comments

In this, the final installment of my missional theology series, I look to the liberation and love a missional  God provides.

Free, Free, Set Them Free

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” said Jesus. Standing in his hometown temple, he continues reading a passage from Isaiah: “he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Lk. 4:18-19).

Among the many ways biblical authors talk about God seeking and saving, the themes of healing and freedom from oppression appear often. Healing and deliverance are part of the well-being/abundant life/favor the Lord generously offers. And we desperately need the well-being – shalom – of God’s salvation.

In a world of brokenness, wholeness breaks in. This wholeness is evident in the local church I attend, in which a robust Celebrate Recovery ministry has emerged. Those in this group believe God empowers them to overcome hurts, habits, and hang-ups. God is their deliverer. Through this and other avenues in the church, many find God’s healing and deliverance.

The Apostle Paul says liberation comes from the Spirit and becomes effective through Jesus. “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death,” he says (Rm. 8:2). In this liberation, we see God again empowering us in ways that provide salvation from destruction.

A look at the overall scope of Scripture leads one to believe humans are the focus of God’s seeking and saving. But the Bible also says God cares about nonhumans. [1] In fact, Scripture says God intends to redeem all things. “The whole creation” hopes to be “set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rm. 8:21-22).

We play a vital role in this mission. We can be co-laborers with God’s work for the redemption of all things.  God acts first to call, empower, and guide us in love – prevenient grace. But God seeks our cooperation. This becomes clear in the Revised Standard Version’s translation of Romans 8:28: “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him” (emphases added).

We can work for good with God. The healing and deliverance God has in mind involves our participation.

Love is On the Move

A God on a mission is a God on the move. And love is the primary and persistent intent of our God-on-the-move. A robust missional theology is a theology of love.

To love is to act intentionally, in response to God and others, to promote overall well-being.[2] God’s initial and empowering action makes response possible. We live in community with others to whom we also respond. We are not isolated individuals, and God desires the common good.

God’s love establishes the God’s kingdom – or what I call God’s loving leadership. Here again, it is through Jesus we believe such things. Jesus preached God’s loving leadership as both possible and actual here in this life. And he proclaimed its fulfillment in the life to come.

As a young child, I learned a chorus I now sing to my kids. It derives from 1 John 4:7-8: “Beloved, let us love one another. For love is from God, and everyone that loves is born of God and knows God. The one that doesn’t love doesn’t know God, for God is love.” John says our best clue about what love entails is this: God sent Jesus.

The God who seeks and saves is revealed best in Jesus Christ. This God of love desires that all creation live shalom. God works powerfully through love to fulfill this desire, and we are invited to join in this love project. The result is the healing, restoration, and liberation of all held captive to sin and death. This holy God revealed best in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is on a mission of love.

John takes these truths about God, love, and Jesus a bit further and concludes with this logic: “Since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another” (4:11). Thankfully God makes love possible, says John: “We love, because he first loved us” (4:19). The empowering God enables us to love.

A missional theology supporting the endeavor to seek and save the lost is not based primarily on an evangelistic canvassing strategy. Nor is it based primarily upon duty and obedience to God. It’s not even based primarily upon worship. Strategies, obedience, and worship are all important. But missional theology is based primarily on love.

We ought to be “imitators of God, as dearly love children, and life a life of love, just as Christ loved us…” (Eph. 5:1, 2a). This missional ethic emphasizes generosity, listening and speaking, both influencing and being influenced by, enabling, mutuality, and community. It’s a strategy that cares for the least of these and all creation.

Conclusion

In short: God loves us, and we ought to love one another and love God. We ought to imitate God’s full-orbed love – agape, eros, and philia as we cooperate with God’s mission to seek and save the lost.

The God on a mission invites us on an adventure of love.

 


[1] For an exploration of a Wesleyan doctrine of creation, see Michael Lodahl, God of Nature and of Grace: Reading the World in a Wesleyan Way (Nashville, Tenn.: Kingswood, 2003).

[2] I explain the details of this definition from philosophical, scientific, and theological perspectives in my book, Defining Love: A Philosophical, Scientific, and Theological Engagement (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos, 2010).

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Comments

Todd Holden

I think one of the most powerful words you wrote were, “We can be co-laborers with God’s work for the redemption of all things.”

“We can be…” What an opportunity! What a gracious gift!!

I fully also believe that it is God’s distinct desire to include us. In fact for some reason, God does not want to do it without us. What a thought! What a reality!!

Tom, you really made me think, when you wrote that, “A missional theology supporting the endeavor to seek and save the lost is not based primarily on an evangelistic canvassing strategy.”

In my mind, I imagine when we focus just on one aspect it is like hopping on one leg instead of walking with two. You can do it and make progress, but what we miss when we do not look at the whole is incredible. God is so good to us and for us!

My passion for God and His creation has increased again!


Grieta

I loved being reminded that God’s love was so deep that He sent Jesus to us. Jesus was sent to liberate me and set me free from fear, guilt, sin and transgression. This love I experience from God every day is so overwhelming that my ‘cup runneth over.’ I understand Paul’s words that he is compelled by love to proclaim the gospel to all nations.

God’s power works to bring us all to him. His purpose for me is to do the same. He draws people closer to Him with love, and this should also be the method I use to bring people closer to Him. To love requires risk. It is an intentional act, not something that will happen by accident.


Brandon W

The nature of God is love. Everything God does stems from this nature. When he created the universe he did it out of love and created it with the capacity to love. Out of his loving nature he also made us free. We must now respond in love to the sin and suffering of others. We must partner with God in order to help save the world. We can be God’s love ambassadors that become a godly presence to those who feel abandoned. God is on a loving mission to redeem the world. The church must have that same mission by having a missional theology that is active in pursuing the lost.


Shiro Sumi

Dr. Oord said it well when he wrote that God’s love fully encompasses “agape,” “eros” and “philia.” We know what love is because God first loved us, and gave us the ability to love. Love, as we see it in our lives, is from God, in all its shapes and sizes. But love is not love without being “on the move.” God’s mission is driven by love – active love, which restores and sets the oppressed free.

This is a beautiful reminder of how God calls us to participate in God’s mission of love to reconcile the world.


Ken Entwistle

Praise God.  Love is the rule and the measure all through Scripture.  This blog post is a short and concise call to action through the lens of love and thus becoming missional.  Whenever we see first through love, care and compassion we have endeavored to pursue God’s mission for us.

Love must encompass God’s truths through Scripture as our guiding light.  Scripture is the “how to” book of love at its best!


Garet H

A core idea of ministry needs to be partnership.  We are in partnership with God and in partnership with each other.  The idea is a partnership is that the partners have something to offer each other.  God offers us salvation and love and we offer God love and a willingness to work. 

We are not tools of God, we are partners.  We work together to live missionally, seeing where we are need in the WHOLE world and going there.


pzerphy

This blog post is descriptive of the attitude that our church advances in the world. I wholeheartedly agree that love is the centerpiece of God’s kingdom. Love is a verb in the Missional church. It promotes action. I resonated with the notion of God’s kingdom being described as “God’s loving leadership”. I’ve often described the kingdom of God as where God rules and reigns. This concept of “God’s loving leadership” contextualizes it for our time in history. It helps to situate the kingdom of God is a reality in the present as well as the future. It also supports our recent discussions on open theology and the importance of joining with God now to advances loving leadership.


Jaclyn F

I LOVE that my God, OUR God is a God who does not give up on creation.  Our God is on the move, and we are called to be ‘on an adventure of love,’ as you put it, with God!  I was at a church last night (not my own) and was talking to the pastor about my current education and ministry goals.  Upon telling him I am seeking ordination, he gave me an uncomfortable stare.  I know this man does not believe women should be ordained. 

I think we need to, as all of creation, move past differences like this, in order to fully embrace and enjoy this adventure with God!  We are getting too caught up on things that are not the big picture.  We are all working for the same cause!!!


Walt Wilkinson

I did not grow up in the church, as matter of fact, I did not become a Christian until I was 27. I was saved in a CMA Church before I ended up in the Nazarene Church. The entire time I was in the Nazarene Church I thought holiness meant you can’t do this or that. It was not until my senior year at Nazarene Bible College that I learned what Wesley meant by holiness.  I learned that holiness was not about following a bunch of rules and regulations. Holiness is about being filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit to love God and others perfectly.

Thus, God is a God of love who is on a mission to redeem humanity.  It was love that nailed God to the cross, and it was love the resurrected God and defeated Satan, sin, and death. It is God’s love and grace that opened my eyes on just how much I need a Savior. It is God’s love and grace that invites me and gifts me to Join God in redeeming the world by loving God and others.


Jeff Auw

Thank you for pointing out the RSV version of Romans 8:28.  I have never read the RSV version of this verse.  I love that God works WITH us.

One question that came to my mind, dealt with the priority of loving God over others.  When we claim the basis of missional theology is love for God and others, should we clarify that our love for God should be top priority above all others?  Perhaps there may not exist a situation in which appropriate love for others would interfere with our love for God, but it seems like our love for God should have greater importance than our love for others.

Any thoughts?


Kenton Lee

It seems like Tom was in his element on this blog: talking about love.  This was a very encouraging and yet challenging blog post.  If I have learned anything in these first few weeks of class, I have learned that missional theology is “a theology of love”.  Tom states that “a God on a mission is a God on the move… and love is the primary and persistent intent of our God-on-the-move”.  Overall, Tom states that “missional theology is based primarily on love”.
That thought completely resonates with me.  I believe that love should be the ultimate motivation for everything.  It seems to me like love is the truest of all motivations.  Doing things for other reasons could have smatterings of personal or selfish motivations.  But love?  It seems like it is the ultimate and truest of all motivations.
A theology that is based primarily on love sounds pretty good.


Jeff Mann

I love how Tom has made it so clear that God not only intends for us to be co-laborers with God but that God also empowers us to share in His Salvation of all of Creation.  This is exciting and makes me really think about how much God really loves His Creation and how He really meant it when He said that it was “good.”

Tom says, “A look at the overall scope of Scripture leads one to believe humans are the focus of God’s seeking and saving. But the Bible also says God cares about nonhumans. [1] In fact, Scripture says God intends to redeem all things. “The whole creation” hopes to be “set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rm. 8:21-22).”

This is a Scripture that I must have glossed over so many times.  I have never really understood it to mean that ALL creation is to be redeemed.  Now that I understand it better, I am filled with joy that our God loves all of creation and we all should feel empowered to help God in His mission of redeeming all of creation.  What a wonderful, awesome God we serve!


Russell H.

I like the thought of wholeness breaking in to brokeness and bringing peace and healing.  This is a geat attitude for a church to have.  This should be the mission of each Christian, to discern when brokeness is present and then being willing to interupt their schedule to stop and share the Gospel that brings restoration with those who are hurting and in bondage.

Love on the move is a great image of God.  the devil roams seeking whom he may devour… while God roams and moves His church seeking who He may love!


Steve H.

Great blog about our Moving Missional God. Not only does God act mercifully through His love, always pursueing and calling people to Him, His loving creation also groans for the day of redemption.(Romans 8) But let us understand that humanity is central to God’s creation. He says in verse 19 of Romans 8, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” What is this implying? Could in be that the most ergent action the church can take in taking part in creation reconciliation is building God’s spiritual Kingdom as creation waits for the day of redemption? Could it be “save the planet” measures are best done through the spreading of the Gospel of God and saving humanity?


Ronald Baker

“Love on the move!” Liberating, restoring love characterizes missio Dei. This article moved me to consider the many ways God loves. Tom makes an excellent point when he says that missional theology is not driven by methodologies, strategies or even liturgy; being missional is to love.

There is no limit or bounds to God’s missional love. I am thinking in terms of God’s love as seen in his reaching grace, prevenient and saving, as revealed in scripture; love that we can personally experience. Consider the diversity of people and how they respond while God goes on loveing. How many places must his love reach in order to touch all the lives of humanity and all of creation?

It makes me question what this love means in my life as I serve with God missionally. God uses all those who respond to his love to help him reach those who have rejected his love. This full spectrum of love, as noted in the essay, the agape, eros, and philia, is the demonstration of missional love.

After reading this article, I once again read the love chapter – devotionally, allowing the awesome God of love to fill me.


Mike Goff

Good thoughts here, Tom. I have been co-leading a Celebrate Recovery group for nearly a year and it is one of the highlights of my week.I have often shared with people that what I most appreciate about CR is getting to see “the church be the church.”

Being part of a group that truly loves each other unconditionally and shares their struggles, hurts, and victories openly is quite refreshing. Christ came to bring life more abundant and it is certainly more blessed when we know that we do not struggle alone and that others have come through our burdens to restoration. Several years ago, in preparing for a devotional for my Christian couseling cohort, God impressed upon my heart that Ephesians 4:13 could correctly be translated, “until we all reach unity in the faith and knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the FULL measure of the WHOLENESS of Christ.”


Shannon T

This blog is full of encouragement! You write about the themes in the Bible of healing and freedom from oppresion. You also mentioned who God makes us whole and provides deliverance from things that destroy us. And all of these things are given to us because God loves us so much and is taking action in our lives. Your message comes to me at a time where I need encouragement, and what is better than being reminded of God’s incredible, indescribable love for us? Thank you for this blog.


CJ Pankey

I really liked how you connected well-being and shalom. I think we focus peace on resolving conflict so there’s no animosity between parties and forget how peace and well-being go hand in hand. It’s something we need to make sure we include when we talk about both salvation and the mission of God.

We also have to realize that love is at the center of this and all of God’s work. 1 John 4 is one of my favorite chapters. For all the attention 1 Corinthians 13 gets for being “the love chapter,” it’s not complete without 1 John 4. Love is patient, kind, etc., because God is love. When we love, we help to bring about peace and well-being to all of creation.


SarahJ

This week I have been thinking a lot about the courage it takes to both love and be free.  The “adventure” that God empowers us along can often take deep courage to live into.  Your post reminds me that it is God who is love, who’s grace is going ahead and before us, and his perfect love, working in us drives out fear as we participate with him in a process of transformation. 

It draws us outside ourselves and invites us to follow God’s example and risk into love.


Ryan Pennington

“In a world of brokenness, wholeness breaks in.”  This is how I can best describe God to one who does not yet know the fullness of who God is.  In our human lives we are constantly seeking for that which gives us contentment or satisfaction.  Only in God do we find wholeness.  In situations like divorce, addictive behaviors, and physical and mental disabilities we can trust that God can fill the void and be the remedy we need to make our lives complete.
 
Missional theology is not based primarily on an evangelistic canvassing strategy.  It is based on love.  Strategies of door knocking, handing out tracts, bussing kids to church, and even revival meetings are no longer effective in the area I live.  It requires more and less at the same time.  A deeper investment of love and less programming.  Meeting people where they are at with authentic love is the best way to reflect the image of God to a world that is broken and desperately needs to be made whole.


Paul Mills

What an awesome reminder that our mission is joined to God’s mission.  We are not joined out of obligation.  We are not even joined out of a desire to please God.  Instead we are joined by love.  We serve like God, because God’s love is flowing through us.  As Bob Pierce said, ““Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.”  We are driven by the same passion that God has – the same love that God has.  So our mission becomes the same mission as God.  We see brokenness all around.  The question becomes will be moved to act.  I am reminded of the movie Laurence of Arabia.  In their march across the desert one Arab is left behind.  Laurence is told to let the person die,  because “it has been written.”  Laurence goes back and returns with the dying Arab.  He responds, “nothing is written until I have written it.”  May we see this unfolding story as an invitation to write new stories of salvation.


Joe Crosby

The more the Church struggles with its identity and purpose, the more I propose we remind ourselves of our theology. Theology being our study, knowledge, or understanding of God. The most meaningful theology must be lived out. Unfortunately, many of the things the Church lives out paints a picture of God going door to door to entice others to pray as a means for salvation. Or maybe it draws a picture of God who is entertained by large groups singing and sitting together. If what we live out is a reflection of our theology, then our theology is centered around attendance. A “missional theology is based primarily on love” and is evidenced by His calling, empowering, and guiding through His grace. Our response is encouraged and in many ways required in order to accomplish the greatest good for the present and in the future.


margaret tyler

Thanks for your insight Dr. Oord. Loving for the sake of loving well is no simple thing. With advertisers and empire holding a great deal of teaching platform in the world, our self-focus and self-preservation are nurtured. The resounding voice in our head can quickly become, “Take care of you. You are number one.” Loving for the sake of loving well means placing personal agenda aside. At times it means loving even at the risk of being rejected or criticized. This message is counter to the message of love in 1 John. Instead, we are tempted to buy into the idea that we love is meant as a tool for exchange. I think many examples could be given here but one that comes to mind is the relationship between pastor and people. When either party begins to think their happiness is the main goal for their life together, the love described in 1 John gets lost.


Jim Cendrowski

Your quote, “A missional theology supporting the endeavor to seek and save the lost is not based primarily on an evangelistic canvassing strategy. Nor is it based primarily upon duty and obedience to God. It’s not even based primarily upon worship. Strategies, obedience, and worship are all important. But missional theology is based primarily on love” reminds me of a recent discussion with another Christian at work.

The culmination of people living within God’s will; to live selflessly in love, is what Jesus describes as the Kingdom of God. The will of God accomplished individually will lead to communities and societies living out this idea. The mission of God is then accomplished as these individuals come together in Christ and seek to continue to live in this way.


Don Smith

A long time ago when I was first starting into ministry, and then again when I was taking my first senior pastorate, one of my mentors shared with me his success in ministry. It was simple, preach the gospel and love them as God loves you and you will be fine. I try to follow this advice in all I do, and guess what it is effective. So, as I read these words from this blog it is easy to see that God’s work through and with us is a work of love. The thing about his blog and many things form the class I am now in is learning more and more of the partnership, or co-laborers with God that we become as we follow this ministry of love. We can love because He first loved us. These are words that should encourage people to be willing to share the love of Jesus will everyone they can, and if we can learn to do this, better and better, with God’s grace the kingdom will be moving forward. This is how it has always worked, sometimes we just need reminding. Thanks for these words.


Barry

Mission is at the heart of God and love is the vehicle through which we experience him. When love is genuine it infiltrates all aspects of our being, transforming us into the image of our Creator. You will know they are Christ followers when you see their love for each other. This love not only expresses itself in love for neighbor, but also in love for the creation. God’s love is holistic in nature. Christians have a great opportunity today to show the world what Godly love looks like, and with current world events the impetus is even greater. Great evil will only be conquered by great love, God’s love.


Rosanne McMath

How I want people to understand what you said in your blog! Loving God and being a child a God is not about a list of do’s and don’ts to keep track of. Loving God is as you stated, “Among the many ways biblical authors talk about God seeking and saving, the themes of healing and freedom from oppression appear often. Healing and deliverance are part of the well-being/abundant life/favor the Lord generously offers. And we desperately need the well-being – shalom – of God’s salvation.”
I appreciate you mentioning all the aspects of God’s love and our call to reciprocate and how that love is then demonstrated throughout the whole of community. I also see in this Christ’s call to Peter after the resurrection. No matter whether we consider ourselves only to love Christ as a friend or whether our relationship is on a much deeper level, He still calls us to be missional and to feed His sheep (John 21:15-17).


Francis Mwansa

Reading through the blog, reminds me once again about God’s love recorded in the third chapter of the gospel of John. Jesus is the true expression of God’s love towards humanity. It is His love which compelled God to save all people through Jesus Christ. We need to allow God to fill us with His love which will compel us to minister to people with spiritual, physical, social and psychological needs. This further reminds me that, our love should be translated into touching people’s lives through sharing the gospel, helping the needy and healing the sick and so on. We are the conduits to carry the love of God to all nations.

Frank


David A.

Your post looks very seriously at the work of God as being love and you quote freely from the disciple whom Jesus loved particularly: John. This book so captures and explains what is meant by “God is love” when we are told explicitly what love looks like: Jesus dying on a cross for us and thereby destroying the works of the devil. While you don’t explore the depth of warfare theology here your post combines the ideas of freedom and love working together. Jesus said that he had to tie up the strong man in order to plunder his house and that what he sets free is free indeed. God’s love is always seeking to unchain the bound and restore sight to the blind – both physically and spiritually. His goal, what you refer in your definition of love as interest in “well-being,” is truly the shalom peace of wholeness in all aspects of life. Shalom; abundant life and love. It is a beautiful thing to see a God who relates out of love and not control and is willing to do battle for us in order to create a way for us to know and be known by him.


Cezi

“The God on a mission invites us on an adventure of love” is beautiful. He has chosen to make us part of an amazing journey where our role is not only to be spectators of God’s work, but he has made us an essential part of his loving mission. He has made us co-workers in his plan to redeem the world.

Therefore, the life of church should be based on the love for God, others and creation. Programs, worship and all other ‘important activities’ should be only an expression of this love. Everything we do has to serve to the redemption of God’s work.

Also, in the same way God makes us part of his mission we should open our hand to invite other people into the dance of God’s Kingdom.


Tony

Singer Nestor Alexander Haddaway asks the question, “What is love”? I believe that there is a world all around us that is asking this very same question. They are as Johnny Lee puts it, “looking for love in all of the wrong places.” It is my belief that we as human beings have lost what it means to love and be loved. I was once asked what is it that Christianity has to offer that cannot be found in other religions of the world. I believe that “love” is the one and only thing that Christianity can offer that be found nowhere else. Sure, the concept of love can be found all over the world, but true love is found only in relationship with God, through Christ. So then the question is if we are the only ones that can offer true love, then why are we keeping it only to ourselves?


Rich Evans

Tom, I really love how you were able to stress the importance of God being a missional God. There are so many places in scripture where we are challenged to love God, but also to Love others. I couldn’t help but think of John 3:16 and the fact that God so loved the world, that He gave up His son for all things. In fact, in verse 17, I find it solidifies the fact that God loved the world, because it says Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. It is by God’s nature to love, not to condemn those He created. I love the fact that God has called us to join Him on mission by first liberating us, then allowing us to co-journey with Him to bring liberation to all things. To be on mission is to be willing to extend the same love God extends to all humanity to those around us, the lost and the least of these.


Aneel Mal

One of the most important statements that you made is, “To love is to act intentionally, in response to God and other, to promote overall well-being”. I agree with this as we are living in a society that makes love into an emotional state of being rather than action verb which is clearly the Biblical view. It is all about a loving God who makes it His purpose to love us and it is because of this love that He renews, revives and restores us. I can only imagine the strength of such a love as expressed by God as to die on the cross for sinners. Lastly I appreciate your focus on the opportunity to be coworkers with God in His mission. This is not about a command or an obligation but it is a response of love from us toward God’s love. If we love him as He loves us then we will move into action and join Him to restore all of creation. Sitting idle by is not an option in this new relationship forged by His love.


Brad Thompson

Great thoughts here, Dr. Oord! Love is at the heart of (God’s) mission. While I KNOW love is imperative, I struggle with the DOING of all that love demands. “Intentionality” is what moves one to “do”. Intentionality requires exquisite focus and attention of where God is at work. Intentionality demands prayer, conversation and communion. It beckons followers to the hurt, pain, oppression and injustices of the world most would rather ignore. Intentionality asks we become aware of those things done unintentionally. Intentionality moves the unintentional mundane tasks of life toward a new narrative where God’s love is made present. It’s not enough to know about God’s love. To truly know God’s love one must do. Intentionality moves people to become love where love is needed most. Bottom line…loving like God is never easy. It requires sacrifice, time and often it’s messy. If I’m going to learn to love where God’s love is needed most, I must be intent(ional) and attentive to God’s grace already at work in the world.

Grace & Peace,
Brad


Michael O

I don’t want to miss the forest for the trees, so let me acknowledge the forest: The fuel of the Kingdom is Love. God is a relational God, and thankfully his relational approach to us is love. Love is what God is, and love is our grace-empowered response and Spirit-obedience through Christ. This love is the primary factor in everything: how we care for each other as well as how we care for the rest of creation around us. Love is the Grace-filled creaturely response to the rest of creation. God graciously allows us to participate in re-creation.
Now for the trees (literally): I see our loving care and preservation of creation as a creaturely response to the love of the Creator – our mission. Of course we would do so! But is creation ultimately “set free from its bondage” by us? The passage you quote (Romans 8:21-22, but really much of chapter 8, as he moves between present and future change) seems to lean so much toward a future event, and, if so, means we are either 1) sustaining or even improving creation until that event, or 2) our contribution is what cumulatively leads toward an evolutionary transformation that, once reaching some kind of tipping point, becomes that event and is finally set free.


Angela Lerena

I am glad that you point out that in missions, God acts first but then He asks for our cooperation with His plan. I have often heard it said that God acts and we react, and that is the end of it. Open theism seems to agree with the statement, as well as your post, but moves past this and adds that we truly work with God, instead of always reacting. God is a sending God as we have talked about before, but He is also working right along side us. What an incredible gift to not only react, but work with as well.


Cassy

God loves us so much that he allows us to share that love with all of those around us. When I was reading this post I was reminded of the latin phrases Imago Dei and Imitatio Dei. Many times I have been very selfish about the Imago Dei. When I thought about the image of God I thought of it in terms of Christians only. When the truth is the Image of God is all of creation. God created all people in his Image and we are called to love without condition. We need to be imitators of Christ in order to draw the image of Christ out of those we come in contact with. It’s exciting and humbling that God calls us to be on mission with Him.


Sarah Dupray

I have always read Romans 8: 28 from the NIV translation which states, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” To read it from the Revised Standard Version’s translation as “We know that in everything God works for the good with those who love him,” adds a sense of responsibility. That responsibility is addressed next with the concept of a God of love is on the move. I believe we can work with God in reaching those around us through love, intentionally loving as God loved.


Phil Michaels

I do love that RSV version of Romans 8:28 that emphasizes the cooperation we have with God in bringing about the good and God’s Kingdom. We cannot do what God wants us to do unless we love, and we cannot love unless we are the people God wants us to be. And we cannot be that unless we respond to the love that God has ‘first loved us’ with through God’s prevenient grace. The mission and Kingdom of God really are all about loving God, self, and others, all of which is enabled by the God who is love, without whom we could never experience what love truly is. Motivated by this love and acting within it, we can be who God wants us to be, do what God wants us to do, and cooperate with God in working all things together for good.


jennifer glover

The reference to 1 John 4:7-8 is a great one. The idea that love is what defines us in our walk with God in life is powerful. This verse also speaks to prevenient grace. God is at work moving in love. If can take this further to the idea that each person, whatever their position in life, has the opportunity to choose love in their situation. The prisoner who comes to Christ may not have the same freedoms to love that someone else does, but they do have opportunity to love and God works in that.


Jon Thompson

As I was reading this, I was quickly reminded of the passage where Jesus contrasted loving God with loving our neighbor. Jesus equates these two commandments. Within the realm of missional theology, this passage in which Jesus is confronted, takes on an even stronger flavor. In fact it even puts every believer to task, to examine their faith and love for God. That if we love God, then are we loving our neighbor. If we are not loving our neighbor, then do we truly love God?

This then ties in with the thought process of being co-workers with God in mission. Whether it is through care of creation, reconciling of humankind, prayer and/or ministries of compassion. We are being sent by God, to love on our neighbors with a love that does not originate with humankind, yet comes from God.


Chris Nikkel

“We ought to be ‘imitators of God.’” This concept reminded me of your example of choosing the best possible decision among the entire scope of possible decisions. The choices before us are made possible by the context in which we live. When we seek to get to know Jesus and imitate him we are participating in the missio Dei.

Knowing God, and imitating God, enables us to choose the best possible choice through love. As we grow in grace we can make the choice to love even more. Through partnership with the Creator we can choose to love, becoming more like his image with every step.


Sarah Brubaker

I think several of the points in this post are key to missional living and response to God.
The first of which is: “In this liberation, we see God again empowering us in ways that provide salvation from destruction.” So many times when we hear the word “salvation” we think of eternal salvation. This is a large part of salvation, but we forget that this word was used over and over and over again in the Old Testament in terms of God rescuing from a myriad of problems, not all eternal and not all spiritual. This relates to the idea of God offering salvation to all of creation in terms of physical rescuing. The other part that is valuable in this quote is that God is the one who empowers us in the first place. We cannot have, nor can we offer salvation apart from the salvation that God offers and provides. He always remains the center and the source.
The second area that is key is: “Scripture says God intends to redeem all things. “The whole creation” hopes to be “set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rm. 8:21-22).” We need to care about all of the things that God cares about and join Him in what His kingdom consists of, which includes creation. We have a responsibility, a missional responsibility, to redeem and rescue all of creation, not just people. All of creation offers worship, praise and love to God and so we should desire that this come about as much and in as many places as possible.
The last part that I think is key is: “To love is to act intentionally, in response to God and others, to promote overall well-being.” There are a lot of times when I think that ministry or being missional should just come to me and I don’t take the time to be intentional in initiating or inviting it. I expect people to come to me and to seek out truth where I’m at, but I should be doing the opposite. God didn’t wait for, nor did He expect, people to come searching for Him but rather He makes the first move. He invites people into relationship with Him and He is intentional about providing opportunities for them to see and interact with Him. I need to be intentional in the same area. I need to care about people to the point that I search them out and I consciously think about how I can be prevenient grace in their lives. This is what following a missional God should look like.


Jon Thompson

The message of Love is powerful. Especially when that love originates with God. I truly resonate with the discussion that God’s nature is Love and that Love coauses God to be on the movie. Which in definition declares the missional theology of the church today. All that we know of God has its origin in love. From that origin all other attributes of God flows. Which in essence should be the same origin for humankind. If one would really spend the time investigating love. That person would realize that love does overcome all things. It delivers. It sets the oppressed free. It restores and it reconciles. What a strong and beautiful message that we get to declare to all the world.


Troy Teeter

I really enjoyed this. It is well stated that God is a relational God and throughout the mission has been one of love. God desires a response to these acts of love, but it is not coercive. Love must be a choice that we make in our response to what has and is constantly before us. As God is acting in the world around us, we get to participate. I love your statement that this is not an evangelistic endeavor, but one solely based on love for creation. As we join the mission, it is one to bring restoration through love, seeking to not coercively bring creation into “our fold,” but simply back into a relational awareness that God desires and seeks to show His love. When we do this, we will join in loving response to creation around us, through outward actions not only to fellow mankind, but non-humankind as well.

Imagine what it would look like if God’s people wouldn’t worry so much about conversion, but a relational and continued conversation of love that would continue to draw people toward God. As we do this, we will approach those that are oppressed, hurt, and separated from knowing God’s love. For surely “they will know us by our love.”


Joyce Tempel

This blog post has been my favorite so far. God is on a mission of love! It is liberating to understand that God’s essence is relational love. Therefore, we are reminded that He counts on men and women to love Him and be witnesses of His love to all creation. God’s love is the source of our mission, and in aspiring to serve God and be part of His mission, we must take love as our standard of conduct. We have a responsibility in being a channel of God’s grace in the world by championing His missional character that seeks to extend His love to all. Being missional is being an agent of love to those around us.


Rob Birks

YES! One of the first Bible verses most Christians hear and even memorize is John 3:16, which makes it clear that out of love for the world he had created and to save that world, God, the Father, sent God the Son. Love fueled God’s mission to save us. It follows, then, that our mission should be similarly motivated. If the Church goes into our communities with a desire to save “them”, we miss out on the better way of Jesus – loving them first.

A mission to save others sounds as though love is implied, but even a cursory look at the Church’s evangelistic methods in the past shows us that love has often been lacking. Many Christians have a sincere desire to save the world, in order to fulfill the Great Commission. However, if we attempt to fulfill the Great Commission with little or no regard to the second of the Great Commandments, we fail (even if we “win” souls).

The fact that God desires to partner with us in his mission to save the world requires us to examine our motives and methods of evangelism. If they are not fueled by and steeped in love, we should regroup and do whatever it takes to align mission with God’s. Otherwise we are engaging in empty activity, declaring “mission accomplished” when we haven’t even begun.


Roman Lyon

The last few paragraphs are what really struck me and are hugely important. We have to learn to be better imitators of Christ. Missional theology doesn’t have to mean that we are being evangelistic or going overseas and preaching the Gospel at all times. Rather, as you state, if we are imitators of Christ and are representing His love well then we are are already being missional at all times. That is how God intended us to walk out our lives in the first place. Being missional needs to become more of a lifestyle and less of a vocation.


Aneel Mall

One of the amazing things that your blog reminds us is that God is looking to heal us individually, as a community and though that partnership all of creation. Jesus in His coming, dying and resurrection has already provided us “liberation” but we have to want this liberation with our response. Interestingly enough we often focus on liberating others from brokenness of sin without remembering that we also need to appreciate this gift that offers us a relationship of love with the everlasting God. Liberation comes from a healthy understanding of God’s love for us and a healthy expression of our love for others. We cannot express a healthy love for others unless and until we have first experienced and understood God’s love for us.

I appreciated your words about seeing missional theology not as a strategy, command or worship oriented but rather to see it as love oriented. We are living in a world where people question our motives and the some even question the reason for our loving them. It is only those who have experienced the love of God and felt that peace of knowing that this love given by God through Christ asks nothing in return but love. Love itself is the reason for God loving us and our missional strategy, command and worship should be love for the sake of loving. Genuine love of God and others is the best missional theology and this is the partnership God is longing for and calling us into.


Jon Wren

I have always been drawn to the God who liberates. This imagery includes so much hope and restoration for my life and for a broken world. We then have the responsibility to go out and help reconcile the world to godless. We are called to be active agents furthering the kingdom of God!


Kevin E. Bottjen

Your statement, “missional theology is based primarily on love,” is powerful. Love should be the root of all we do as Christ followers. I think of 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing” (NASB.)

So often we think because we are going through the motions of doing good, that we are on the right track. If we are doing these things for the wrong reason, usually selfish reasons, then they are worth nothing eternally. 1 Corinthians 13 goes on to tell us what love is. If we honestly claim to be missional Christians, then what we do MUST be done in love.


Jonathan Gibson

This brings to mind something I came across while studying shalom for a sermon series this past year. The breakdown of the Hebrew characters of the world reveal a word picture; shalom-breaking the authority attached to chaos. We truly, as co-laborers are breaking the authority attached to chaos in our world as God does the same in our lives. I love the relational center of God’s nature. Everything He does is for relational restoration, with humans and creation.

I think we would stand to be challenged as the church if we would see His mission as communal and creational. We are, through our response to His extended love, truly participating in breaking the hold chaos has on our world!


Travis Dotter

What a great read this blog post is. I will definitely be recommending this to some of my friends to read and grow from. This post acts a great period to the last two weeks of our study as it recaps and drives home what missional theology really boils down to. One of the things my pastor always says is that we need to be about the things Jesus was about. Most times throughout the New Testament we see Jesus setting people free just like Dr. Oord points out in this post. We have something to offer the world that the world seems to be looking for. We can offer peace and freedom from spiritual bondage. The first step to doing this is to show them love. God is love and we have the great opputnuity to share that with a broken and hurting world.


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