Processing current affairs through the lens of scripture always opens up surprising perspectives. I believe that the traumas of our time are opening up the global Church to a level of unity and maturity unprecedented in the history of Christendom. We have entered into a kairos time of great kingdom opportunity.
This involves nothing less than a rediscovery of the humanity of Jesus the Son of God.
This rediscovery is embedded in the revelatory power of image.
For centuries a cultural battle has been raging in Western civilisation over what it means to be human, what is the true image of humanity? At the heart of the ethical debates to do with euthanasia, abortion, same-sex marriage and so on is the desire to create “a new type of human being”.
For aggressive secular humanists the true image of humanity is categorically godless. Yet the vestiges of centuries of Christian morality still feed the Western soul; it is no accident that the leader of the humanitarian response to the Syrian refugee crisis, Angela Merkel, had a father who was a Christian pastor!
Far beyond politics, the traumas of our day have one great ultimate purpose, the saving revelation of Jesus as the true image of God (2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15). To understand this we need to go behind the scenes of materiality and perceive what is happening in the invisible spiritual world (2 Cor 4:17-18).
Two Many Voices
Every image brings glory to its creator by bearing faithful testimony to the one who made it. This order is written into the structure of the cosmos and is the ultimate purpose for which all things exist (Eph 1:3-15).
But the sphere of testimony is fiercely contested. Whereas the true Creator has one perfect image, Christ, Satan the false father has a counterpart image (John 8:44). This is “the image of the beast”, and just as Jesus is the testifying Word this image speaks (John 1:14; Rev 1:9; 13:15). We recognise the spirit of the antichrist in its multiple manifestations because it always “makes war on the saints” (1 John 2:18; 4:1; Rev 13:7, 15).
Despite external appearances, the spirit behind the enormous propaganda output of both Islamic State and Western secular humanism is the same. Behind every effort to suppress the testimony of Jesus, whether in Europe, Syria or Australia is the same de-humanising power of evil (Rev 12:17; Rev 19:10).
Evil spiritual forces are constantly seeking to distort the image of God and so rob the Creator of his glory (Rom 1:22; Eph 6:12; Rev 13:15). Today however there is a growing realisation that all the followers of Jesus, Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant or Pentecostal, are involved in the same spiritual struggle over the identity of humanity.
This is creating unprecedented opportunities for practical unified Christian witness (Phil 1:30). The strength for this joint witness flows from a unified vision of Christ. In Jesus’ voice is discerned the unbroken unity of Father, Son and Spirit in whose image humanity was made.
The Voice of the True Image
Christ’s testimony is most emphatic in his passion and death. It was with “loud cries” that Jesus appealed to his “Abba! Father” for deliverance and on the cross “cried out with a loud voice, ““My God…why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 14:36; 15:34; Heb 5:7-8).
That the Son who was supremely conscious of God as Father should lose this awareness in dying on our behalf is the testimony that God loves us his image “more than he loves himself” (Torrance). Crucified-and-raised in the power of the Spirit the Son perfectly images the Father and reveals the Trinitarian nature of the love in which we were created (Mark 14:36; Rom 1:4; Rom 6:4; Rom 8:16; Col 1:15; Heb 9:14).
In contradiction to all satanically inspired images the love of Christ uniquely reveals humanity as the image of God because it is a love given for those who hate him (Matt 5:44-45). In Jesus’ sacrifice witness and image are perfectly one in love (John 10:30; 14:9; Heb 2:10). This is the image the Church is called to embody in the world. If the tragic image of dead toddler gave thousands voice across the globe how much more can the image of the crucified Son of God release unbridled testimony across the world (Gal 3:1).
One Church One Voice
Paul prays prophetically; “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 15:5-6).
The “one voice” testimony of the New Testament Church bringing such rich glory to God emerged under persecution (Acts 4: 18, 24; Rom 15:3). The uniquely converting power of this testimony across the ages is its embodiment of a compassionate suffering love for enemies (Matt 5:44; Luke 23:34, 42; Acts 7:60). Muslims, secular humanists and others will suffer for their cause, but only those who carry the testimony of Jesus willingly lay down their lives for their persecutors in order that the true image of God may be revealed for the salvation of all (Rom 5:8; Col 3:10).
Whether it is in the sphere of welcoming Syrian refugees, praying God’s blessing on ISIS or showing love towards militant equal marriage advocates the besieged Church today is being graced with an unprecedented opportunity (kairos) to give testimony to Jesus. As we reflect the glory of Christ’s unconditional love the image of God is being restored upon the earth carrying hope for the renewal of the whole creation (Matt 19:28; 2 Cor 3:17-18). This is a vision whose scope and depth far exceeds all narrowly focussed prayer for our personal peace and prosperity.
Today the Spirit is toiling to bring forth a mature Western Church by opening our eyes to the prophetic testimony of Jesus as the true image of God (Col 1:27-29).
It is not militant Moslems or aggressive secular humanists with whom we battle, but the satanic spirit that motivates all such movements to image a humanity other than that revealed in Christ (Eph 6:12).
The survival of “Christianity” is not our goal. Our aim is that the compassionate welcoming unconditional love that reveals the true Creator in whose image we were made might be revealed for his glory. The time for passive conformity or aggressive responses to cultural pressures is past; the Lord is raising up a mature testimony to his likeness in every sphere of life and culture.
The Church is called as one undivided body to radiate the restoration of the image of God which has been completed in Christ, offering hope and home not merely to the refugees of this world but a clear vision of a creation yet to come where the time of tears has forever ended (Eph 4:4-6; Rev 21:4).
May the traumas of our time release in our humanity a witness of “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).