If you’ve been in the loop these last few days, I probably won’t be the first to tell you that Sydney has a new Anglican Archbishop. Dr Glenn Davies has been elected to serve the church (and the city) coming off the back of Peter Jensen’s 12 years. Predictably, he’s been getting the call-up of the media. Tonight, that meant appearing on ABC’s opinion show “The Drum”. Alongside expected discussion of his view of headship in marriage and church (which he handled graciously and clearly despite the usual scepticism), asylum seeker policy came up.
[A quick note: I know a lot of people are angered by the current policies and approaches regarding asylum seekers. This is also true for myself. This post doesn’t go into that, but I would recommend the piece written by Julian Burnside in SMH (HERE)].
As he did in an interview a couple of days ago, Glenn Davies offered a different perspective. He didn’t outline policy specifics or make practical suggestions, but merely appealed for humane and compassionate treatment of asylum seekers, rather than debasement.
As he explained it, not only do we ship people around to various insufficient solutions, but we deny them a vital aspect of their humanity: work, opportunity for expression, creativity. People have very little, if anything to do. There is no meaningful occupation, no purpose.
This caused me to think back to Kamal’s first talk on MYC. I’m going to walk through a few ideas that he talked about.
To set the scene:
- God owns world and all in it: he has the right to set the agenda for all people and creation.
- We are called to godliness; something necessarily informed by God’s Trinitarian nature and relationship with Himself.
I could spend this time going into a study of the Trinity. For now, we’ll put that to the side. Instead, let’s jump to Isaiah 42:
Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
He will bring forth justice to the nations. (Isaiah 42:1, ESV)
Isaiah is saying more than he knew: in Matthew 12:17-18, we see this quoted to identify Jesus as the beloved servant. There’s heaps more going on here, but I’ll stick to something Kamal pointed out.
God loves and delights in his servant (his Son Jesus). So what does the Father do? He fills the servant with the Spirit, and gives him the task of proclaiming to the nations. He gives him a mission. The Son is blessed with a Spirit-fuelled mission, to go to the nations.
God has given a mission to all of humanity. Back in the OT, we see parts of it:
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28, ESV)
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2:15, ESV)
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas. (Psalm 8:4-8, ESV)
I think Glenn was hitting on something pretty profound. Something definitive about humanity is the prerogative to care and cultivate. To be engaged in meaningful work.
It’s pretty clear that something is out of kilter. This traces back to the fall. The fall provides many insights into humanity and sin. I think it provides some of the most tragic and beautiful ideas and images in the bible. There’s some great irony caused: as humanity grasps for something to which we have no right, we fall. The contrast is in Christ: he has every right to his position at the Father’s side, yet he relinquishes this hold on the throne, reaching down to humanity.
The fall shows us the breakdown of the order of creation. Humanity sees God, and tries to rule without him. It’s a hopeless, impossible arrogance: without the rule of God, there is no rule at all. When the relationship with God is tainted, the whole of creation experiences upheaval. As man revolts against God, creation too revolts against man. Creation is groaning for liberation from its bondage to decay, as we have failed our task of imaging God in the universe.
In Christ, however, humanity is redeemed. He is the new human, the true human. He is truly the image of God (Colossians 1:15). His redemption is not to some purposeless humanity. There is still a task. The servant was given a Spirit-fuelled mission to tell the nations. Christ proclaimed salvation by occupied cross and empty tomb. It doesn’t end there. We are the body of Christ: we have been brought into his name. We too have been given the Spirit, and a mission to the nations.
This is what we are made for. As we grow in godliness, we become more like Christ. As we are transformed to the image of our creator, we have a mission. Let’s be who we are.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21, ESV).