celebrate the residue

August 15, 2004 | 7 Comments

(By titling this “celebrate the residue”, I’m willing to bet that I’ve just put together a phrase that has never before been used in the whole of human history!)

For the first time in a long time, I’ve been using a commentary for my devotional reading: Paul for Everyone: The Pastoral Letters by Tom (NT) Wright. This morning, while reading from his comments on 1 Timothy 4:1-5, I thought he had some comments that would be a good addition to the discussion below on cultural relevance:

“This, in fact, is the underlying point, and it needs making again and again in almost every generation. If in doubt, read Genesis 1: God saw all that he made, and it was very good. That is the foundation of all genuine Christian (and for that matter Jewish) thinking. Anything which implies that some part of the created order is bad in itself is the first swish of the axe which will cut off the branch on which we should be sitting — the belief that the God who made the world in the first place is remaking it through Jesus and the spirit, and that we are called, not to abandon our humanity but to celebrate its rescue, redemption and remaking.”

A good friend of mine came back from a trip to the mountains this week, and he described his experience as heavenly. Few, if any, of us struggle to see God’s beauty when we are in nature. We have no need to indicate whether or not a babbling brook is ‘Godly’. In light of this, how interesting is it that we can so easily determine that a person, who is made in the image of God, can be described as ‘ungodly’?

The challenge for us, is not to determine whether or not someone is with, or without, God. Rather, it is to see the residue of God’s image in every person, and, in the words of Tom Wright, ‘celebrate its rescue, redemption and remaking’.

  • dean

    John, phenomenal thoughts!Perhaps that is a key to evangelism that the church has lost. We look at people’s lostness rather than the “residue”. We obviously need to understand our lostness, but if we saw a glimpse of God in everyone, it would change how we see and relate to people.

  • Thanks Dean,
    I think this might be a threatening notion, because it is somewhat contrary to the process of how the 4 Spiritual Laws and similar strategies work. But at the same time, it makes tons of sense to me.

  • This may sound simplistic…but I think what this all boils down to is that people need to be loved and valued for who they are and where they are…realizing that God has special love and concern for each person.

    Of all the fustrations with the Church that I have had, that you’ve read about John, I have to say that a majority of them have grown out of the fact that people are not loved and cared for in this way. More often, from what I can see, they are loved and valued for who they can eventually become through a variety of programs.

  • Yes…somehow we have to love people where they are at, but at the same time, love them enough to help become who God designed them to be.

  • Good post, John. It reminds me a bit of one of Elizabeth O’Connor’s books – Journey Inward, Journey Outward. A great read from the 60’s, and surprisingly very relevant to us now.

    I have yet to find Tom Wright anything short of inspiring. I think you might also enjoy the studies at http://www.tektonics.org – which take a historical, 1st-century approach to scripture. James is also very well read, and seems to also thoroughly enjoy NT Wright.

  • Back on subject… I find it interesting, if not downright scarey, how mainstream Christianity has been so quick to call any of God’s creation evil, rather than only the spiritual influences and choices that miss the mark. To be able to see the hand of God in all of creation seems to be our own rescue. Therein being able to call God out of the depths of others, and truly give them the good news of redemption; calling out there gifts, and helping them become the unique soul who they were created to be. –something very hard to sum up in a few words.

  • PD,
    Thanks for the comments and the link. I made a quick visit, but I’ll have to drop by there when I have more time to give to it!