3. Living Within God’s Story: The Missio Christianus
As has been mentioned several times now, a large part of the missio Dei is the delegation of that mission to God’s representative covenant partners – Adam and Eve, Israel, Jesus, and now, the Church. The Church is the body today that is assigned this vocation. Therefore, Christians must find a way to live within God’s Story, for, as Tom Wright says: “We are the people through whom the narrative… is now moving towards its final destination.” Or, as Richard Hays puts it: “The church is to finds its identification and vocation by recognizing its role within [God’s] cosmic drama.” Living within God’s Story, a missional story, means that the Church is fundamentally missional. She is called to go forth into the world. As Karl Barth says, “the Church lives by its commission as herald” and “when the life of the Church is exhausted in self-serving, it smacks of death.” Barth is not simply being hyperbolic and exaggerating his point. If the Church does not respond to her call to be God’s herald in creation, then death will continue to reign. Consequently, by moving into the biblical story of the missio Dei, we seek to fulfill the challenge issued by Tom Wright. We hope to be: “ferociously loyal to what has gone before and cheerfully open about what must come next.”
Tracing the movements of God’s Story in light of the Christian mission requires us to engage in an interesting reversal. Although the movement of God’s story goes from the Father, to godforsakenness, to the Son, to the Spirit, the mission of the Church traces this movement backwards. The missio Christianus is to become the Spirit in order to become the Son in order to become the godforsaken in order to become the Father. Furthermore, in this whole process we also become subversive gospel-bearers. It should be noted that this reversal of the trinitarian order does not mean that our model is cyclical in nature. We are not working back to the garden, we are moving forwards to the new creation of all things, the parousia of Jesus, and the descent of heaven to earth. Therefore, our mission within the story of God, as we move from the overlap of the ages to the consummation of God’s new creation, can be diagrammed as follows:
Becoming: [the Spirit]-[the Son]-[the Godforsaken]-[the Father]
———- [ ----------------- Gospel-Bearers ---------------- ]
As the true humanity of God’s new creation, already possessing the Spirit of the new age, the missio Christianus is to follow the cruciform road of the Son, proclaiming a subversive gospel and journeying into godforsakenness, so that we can in that very process, become the image of the Father.
Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline.
Richard Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament.
N. T. Wright, The Last Word.