God's work in Jesus and the kingdom come embraces all things. And that work begins now.
Christianity has taken various views of "the world" and how Christians should live in the world. I was raised with the view that the world was them, the church or Christians is us. And what we do is rescue sinners from the world by preaching the gospel. A sinner is saved out of the world, and enters the church, becoming one of us. Some truth there, but leaves something, Biblically, to be desired.
It is true, as in Jesus' words, we, as his disciples are not of the world, even as he is not of the world (John 17). His kingdom was from another place (John 18). But God's kingdom come in Jesus has now come to this place, to planet earth, to this world of human beings and all that goes with that. And it comes as a transformative agent of God, to begin the work of making all things new now. Yes, if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5). But this new work of creation involves all that we do, all our labor, in the Lord, which ends up not being in vain (1 Corithians 15).
Newness as in new creation of God in Jesus, beginning with us here and now, is meant not to stop with us. It's meant to be working its effect on others. On our neighbors, our schools, our communities; the arts and sciences; government- all the world around us, and on this globe. If this is not the case, than God's salvation would not be spelled out in cosmic terms (Colossians). God does not reject his creation. But after the Fall, he comes in Jesus and his death and resurrection, and the pouring out of the Spirit on the people of God, to redeem and save all of his creation. Not all will be saved, but this is God's goal, in bringing in his new creation in Christ.
This theological concept has been a struggle for me. Especially in terms of how we as Christians are related to the world. "The world" in Scripture has different meanings. In some places it means all of God's creation. In other places it means all human beings. And still in other places it means fallen humanity, bent personally and systemically against God and against his kingdom.
Too often Christians have lived as though we're in some kind of bubble, or space ship. In alien land. And we get others, through Jesus, to get their own bubble, and come in and be a part of our alien community. Then someday, zap, we'll all be taken away in the space ship in Jesus. And bid good riddance to this world that God then trashes in judgment.
Quite unlike the Incarnation in Jesus. Who becomes one of us, fully human. Comes to live among us. Identifies himself fully with us, even in our sins, though he never sinned. Dies on the cross for our sins. Is raised to new life, which we all, as believers, share by the Spirit.
Then someday, the climax of what is beginning now. Heaven as in "the new Jerusalem" comes down to earth (Revelation 21). Making all things new. But this climax is from what is going on now. Not just in terms of the radical change of newness that will occur when Jesus returns.
I have much more work to do in trying to understand theologically, in a Biblically satisfying way, this aspect of the Story of God. And with that, even more to learn and enter into, in living it out.
What about you? What has been your view of "the world" and of Christians' relationship to it? How has that impacted your thoughts and action?