23 July 2010

blessing as missional

There is a lot of talk going around church circles about being missional. That is the key concept for understanding the purpose of the people of God, and has now become a challenge issued to the way things have always been. It appears that the concepts of church are undergoing a radical transformation, and congregational life is in desperate need to adapt.

One approach within this way of thinking is to rethink the purpose of the people of God. What is God's project and how are we to participate in it? Of all of the answers that could be developed from this, one which has a particular influence on modern thinking is blessing.

Genesis 12 contains the first statement of the Abrahamic Covenant, where God promises land, seed and blessing. This is foundational to the covenant, which is then foundational to Israel. The third concept is stated thus in v 3, "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." This statement can be taken a couple of ways, but one which we dare not miss is that it is a missional charge given to Abraham (and his 'seed') that they are expected to be proactive in blessing the world around them with God's presence. And then it is more of God's activity than ours when he takes over the blessing work.

There are numerous examples of missional blessing at which we could point, but consider Jesus' words in Matthew 5, where he gives the beatitudes. Each of these statements can be understood as a summons to proactive movement within God's missional work. It is interesting that the blessings which are promised here are not constrained to the 'right people' or 'church people' or even 'Jesus people' . . . but that they are promised to those whose lives demonstrate an active dependence upon God for their entire existence. And then the blessing appears. But, could we then think that this blessing would be heaped upon the individual without further benefit to creation? That would seem a bit counter-productive to the mission our God has initiated.

Compare this language with Luke 11:28, where Jesus gives a blessing on those who not only hear the word of God, but do it. Of first note, this is to say that knowledge is no guarantee of wisdom or godliness. Second, it is a charge that blessing is linked to the missional activity of living out God's Word into the world. Third, it reiterates the blessing motif in Scripture as a non-passive piece of God's mission.

Blessing is constant throughout Scripture and, as this incredibly brief survey of a few passages helps illustrate, is linked to the missional activity of God's people. We are called to be a people who bless the world by bringing God's presence into the lives of those around us. Through this we will remember that we are in the world are not part of the world, but are rather those who are to discover blessing in the washing of their robes in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 22:14) as the covenant kingdom finally and fully reaches its climax.

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