In Isaiah 2:2-3 we read how God wants to use the nation of Israel to draw all nations into a relationship with Him. That passage, among many others in the Old Testament, shows that (1) God takes his people away from the nations and makes them his own nation; (2) God’s people order their lives according to God’s instructions; (3) God’s people thrive due to the superior way of life that he gives them and the blessings he pours upon them; (4) the nations notice and are impressed, having never before seen such a life; and (5) the nations decide on their own to come to where God is blessing his people in order to learn this way of life from him.
Of this plan, author and theologian John C. Nugent makes this critical observation: “It’s important to note what God’s people do not do. They do not come up with their own plan for making the world better. They do not engineer their own path to success. They do not devise a marketing strategy and promote it among the nations. Nor do they presume because of their prosperity and unique relationship to God that they are entitled to rule over other nations. They do not seek to enlarge their territory by absorbing inferior nations. They do not colonize other nations for their own good or head up an international coalition. They simply live how God calls them to live. They don’t try to make the world a better place. They humbly accept that God is making them into a better place.”
This is the same goal God has for the church. As Jesus’ witnesses and ambassadors, the church represents the better place of God’s kingdom. As Nugent states, “We are the model home of God’s kingdom. To the extent that we display God’s kingdom in our life together, God is able to draw people to himself through our witness. Among us they can taste and see the Lord’s goodness. We are the evidence that Jesus has changed the course of world history, that he has already begun a new and better world. This new and better world can be experienced now. We are the foretaste of God’s perfected world to come.”
When, through baptism, God added us to his church, we became part of a family, a body, a movement, a mission; charged with the task of living the good news of Jesus Christ so that, through our Christ-centered lives, God could draw others into relationship with Him. We, the church, make the world a better place by being the better place that the world is crying out to know.
In a world filled with hate, when we lead with love we are being the better place.
In a world filled with cynicism, when we are positive, optimistic, and joy-filled we are being the better place.
In a world filled with coarse speech and divisive rhetoric, when we speak words of light and life we are being the better place.
In a world filled with racism, sexism, ageism, and every other kind of -ism, when we authentically befriend and welcome those who are different from us we are being the better place.
In a world filled with greed and selfishness, when we put others ahead of ourselves we are being the better place.
In a world filled with bullies, when we stand up for others we are being the better place.
In a world filled with pornography and adulterous relationships, every time we choose fidelity we are being the better place.
In a world of haves and have-nots, when we look out for “the least of these” we are being the better place.
In a world full of fear, when we stand strong in the courage supplied by the Holy Spirit we are being the better place.
In every day and in every way that we choose the character of Jesus Christ, we are revealing the better place that is the Kingdom of God. And that is why we have been brought into the church. That is what makes us the church. That is the church’s role in the world and, now more than ever, the world needs the church to step up and fulfill its role.
Be the better place.