The Big Picture
Now do not misunderstand me…Salvation is hugely important. Of course it is! Knowing God for oneself, as opposed to merely knowing or thinking about him, is at the heart of Christian living. Discovering that God is gracious, rather than a distant bureaucrat or a dangerous tyrant, is the good news that constantly surprises and refreshes us. But we are not the center of the universe. God is not circling around us. We are circling around him. It may look, from our point of view, as though “me and my salvation” are the be-all and end-all of Christianity. Sadly, many people – many devout Chrisians! – have preached that way and lived that way. This problem is not peculiar to the churches of the Reformation. It goes back to the high Middle Ages in the Western church, and infects and affects Catholic and Protestant, liberal and conservative, high and low church alike. But a full reading of Scripture itself tells a different story.
God made humans for a purpose: not simply for themselves, not simply so that they could be in a relationship with him, but so that through them, as his image-bearers, he could bring his wise, glad, fruitful order to the world. And the closing scenes of Scripture, in the book of Revelation, are not about human beings going off to heaven to be in a close and intimate relationship with God, but about heaven coming to earth. The intimate relationship with God which is indeed promised and celebrated in that great scene of the New Jerusalem issues at once in an outflowing, a further healing creativity, the river of the water of life flowing out from the city and the tree of life springing up, with leaves that are for the healing of the nations.
If you don’t dig N. T. Wright’s summaries of the big picture, you may not have a pulse.