How should we live?
Inspired by the five marks of mission adopted by the Anglican Communion – tell, teach, tend, transform and treasure – the final section of the book explores how we should live as Christians and how the word of God can shape us and make a difference in our own lives and, through us, in the lives of others.
The five themes are introduced by different writers, representing the vast range of experience and wisdom contained between these beautifully designed covers: George Lings, Christina Baxter, Jackie Harris, Ian Cowley, and Martin and Margot Hodson.
Ian Cowley is the author of a trilogy of books for BRF: The Contemplative Minister, The Contemplative Response and The Contemplative Struggle. Introducing the reflections on the theme ‘Transform’, he writes:
‘To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.’The fourth Mark of Mission
We are living in a time when many of us are intensely aware that we inhabit a broken world. At every turn, we seem to be confronted with injustice, inequality, violence and corruption. In a time like this, the words of the Bible come to us with new power and authority. They bring fresh hope and a clear message of how we should now be living.
Around 2,700 years ago, the prophet Micah famously asked, ‘What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?’ (Micah 6:8, NRSV). These extraordinary words echo through the Bible and find their greatest expression and their fulfilment in the life and teachings of Jesus.
‘Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.’
Jesus proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God, and he demonstrated by his actions what this means. He always found time for the marginalised, the left behind and the forgotten ones. He healed the sick and set the captives free. He confronted the powers and authorities wherever they placed heavy burdens on the shoulders of the poor. This is what it means to do justice and to love kindness.
All of Jesus’ actions flowed out of his relationship with his Father. He arose early in the morning to go to a place apart, in order that throughout each day he would be enabled to walk in humble obedience to the loving purposes of the Father. A heart of love and compassion is formed by daily intimacy with the God of love. This is what we see in Jesus, and this is how we become instruments of God’s peace and justice in a broken world.
‘A heart of love and compassion is formed by daily intimacy with the God of love.’
Instructions for living?
To give you a taste of the reflections in this section, here is Sara Sheerin’s meditation, ‘Instructions for living?’
Live in peace with each other… encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus… May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through… The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.1 Thessalonians 5:13–24 (NIV, abridged)
On the surface, this passage appears to be a handy guide for how to live as a good Christian. The Bible is complex, so when you reach sections like this that seem almost to bullet point how we should live, it can be tempting to breathe a sigh of relief and think, ‘Phew, at last, a summary of what I need to do.’
On one level, it is that. Most, if not all, of us would agree that we should try to live in peace with one another, help the weak, be patient and so on. The key word, though, is that we try. Have you met a Christian yet who is able to live this way without ever slipping up? No. Because it’s not possible. We must try to live this way, but ultimately we will all fall short.
As we read on, we see that this is not a list of instructions for us to follow on our own but a reminder that we do all of this with God. We are asked to ‘Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you’ (vv. 16–18). We must try to do the things listed, but the most important thing is to share it with God. To rejoice even when things go wrong, to pray about everything and to give thanks to God, no matter whether life is going well or not. Because the purpose of this passage, as with all the Bible, is to draw us closer to Jesus and our Father God. Through our successes and our failures we journey forward with him.
‘Have you met a Christian yet who is able to live this way without ever slipping up?’
We must do all we can to live in a Christlike way, but in the end it is God, the God of peace, who will ‘sanctify you through and through’, because he ‘is faithful, and he will do it’.
Sara Sheerin, head of people and culture, BRF