A group of us are reading and discussing David Bosch’s book, “Transforming mission” together. The group consists of me, Cobus, Arthur, Joe, Chris, Marina and then we’re privileged to have Annemie Bosch in the group with us.
Today we discussed the Introduction and Chapter 1.
The themes that stood out for me were (and I would love for the others to chime in) “tension”, “apartheid”, and “engagement with the poor in our daily lives”. I’m only going to focus on tension.
Bosch grounds mission in Christology and when he mentions the “Salient features of Jesus’ person and ministry” he starts with Jesus and the reign of God (1991:31). I resonate deeply with this view. Discovering the centrality of the kingdom in Jesus’ thoughts has radically altered my experience of Jesus and mission over the last decade.
Bosch explains Jesus’ preaching about the kingdom when he says that, “God’s reign is not understood as exclusively future but as both future and already present” (1991:32). It is this line of thought that introduces the tension we as followers of Jesus walk in daily. The Kingdom has already begun but is not yet fully consummated.
This, I must admit, drives me crazy. I think the people of my generation (although I don’t think it is just a generational issue) tend to be very idealistic and sometimes very impatient. The tension outside of us (like systemic injustice) and inside of us (our participation and willing subjugation to it) frustrates us and we want to fix it immediately.
Jesus invites us to pray daily “let your kingdom come”. It is a clue that this will be a lifetime process and to use Eugene Peterson’s book title “A long obedience in the same direction.”
For a long time I lived life in a narrative that only had to do with the future kingdom, a phrase that was synonyms with “going to heaven”. I accepted Jesus into my heart and waited for that sweet day when you know, “I can only imagine” – Mercy Me.
Then I woke up to the present reality of the kingdom. All of the injustices suddenly became so clear to me. Heaven faded away and I almost drowned in the suffering of my fellow-South African citizens. I became a mini-Messiah and carried the whole world in my hand. It was heavy and I became a passive-aggressive-towards-the-rich- poor-lover (check out this article for a description of this behavior)
Yet it is the tension between the now-then that keeps us in mission, or as Bosch says, “… the tension of between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’ of God’s reign in Jesus’ ministry belongs to the essence of his person and consciousness and should not be resolved; it is precisely in this creative tension that the reality of God’s reign has significance for our contemporary mission (Burchard 1980)” (1991:32).
Bosch also reminds us that even the early Christians did not usher in a utopia, “Injustice had not yet vanished, oppression had not yet been eliminated, poverty, hunger, even persecution were still very much the order of the day” (1991:49).
Even though the tension will always be there, it is not a rationalization to stop alleviating poverty, injustice and other evils – for if you do that then the tension has been relieved and then you’re out of the struggle. Even though the suffering and injustice of people around us don’t stop – we don’t give in for the tension is a sign that we’re still on the mission!
Bosch, D.J., 1991. Transforming mission : paradigm shifts in theology of mission, Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books.