AA, the Church, and the Mission of God (pt. 3 – AA & the Gospel)
I think being raised Southern Baptist has helped give me a lifelong curiousity in ‘the gospel’ and I hope to always keep it. As I implied in the last post, I have come to see Jesus’ gospel of the kingdom–the news that the government of God has come near by virtue of Jesus showing up to assume his rightful role as the ‘Christ’-ened Lord of heaven and earth)–as the central message, with Jesus’ own story (a.k.a., the gospels) as the specific reports of how he, among other things, took that rightful place without immediately judging all of humanity for their ages-long resistance to his rule of love and selflessness. Thank God, Jesus comes announcing how we can be transformed into his cooperative friends, restoring the whole creation with and through him, rather than continue to be part of its destruction in large or small ways.
Now, you may notice that a fair summary of the gospel I’ve described in this post and before has the feel of a story of a very gracious king coming to his people who had been in various stages of rebellion against him. Instead of giving them the penalty for their treason and their other crimes against him and others, he took the consequences of their rebellion upon himself in the hopes that his people would cease their destructive rebellion and finally join with him in caring for each other and the whole creation as he envisions. Or, to put his hope another way, that they would ‘repent and trust him’ as his apprentices and constructive co-workers, that they would ‘enter’ and ‘receive’ his government as grateful and willing participants, joining his family business of making all things new though his love and power.
What you may notice is lacking from this description is any central concern about where one might be headed after death. My summaries of the gospel are focused on bringing humans back into participative, and increasingly constructive cooperation with God’s chosen king–right now in this life for the good of all we effect. Now, the implications for the after-life are clear enough. As Todd Hunter has said, if there are two options for the after life, where do you think God takes his friends? With him, of course, to finish what they have worked toward together–the new heavens and new earth. And the negative implications are also clear: what of the person who has remained hostile to Christ and to his rule of love and self-sacrifice? Out, tragically, with the rest of the trash that is committed to death. But–and this is the salient point–the focus of the gospel of the reign of God is how one wants to go forward in this life. Specifically, the issue is whether we want to ‘receive’ the new management. Do we want to actually ask God to let his name be honored above all (including ours), his government to come (not ours), his will (think, great commandments) be done in our particular corners of the earth–at least through us, or do we want to pray for and continue to seek our name, our reign, our will be done. It is a directional choice. It is a ‘how we want to live and for what?’ choice. It’s a day-by-day choice. It’s the choice God has laid before us when he sent his son proclaiming that ‘The time has come. The reign of God has come near. Repent and trust this good news’ as he healed and took apprentices, teaching them his Way.
Now, as that gospel started to get hold of me, I started looking at the 12 steps and thinking, “Is there a better way to respond, or rather, follow through in response, to that gospel, then this?” I encourage anyone to think about this gospel and what God is seeking to do in the world–really search the whole NT on that question– and ask the same question. I will go into some of the specific strengths of the steps as a kingdom-gospel response in later posts, but for now I will simply say that the steps are, in a nutshell, about turning the practical reigns of our lives over to God, especially as they inevitably involve our dealings with others. What’s more, the path of the steps aren’t taken alone, but in truly helpful relationships with others who are on the same path. The steps are about learning to actually live the way Jesus lived and taught, not just hear about it. They are a communal path to entering the reign of God, one day at a time, ceasing to be an instrument of other, darker powers such as our own selfishness and the idols we’ve counted on and followed for so long.