Back in the day if you wanted to watch a TV show, you actually had to tune in at a specific time if you wanted to see the latest episode. There was no DVR or Netflix or Hulu. And if you were late in tuning in, you could easily get lost — Wait, what just happened? What did I miss? Why is that guy wearing the goggles shooting everyone? Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?
It’s very confusing. Seriously, just try walking into a movie 30 minutes late and try to understand the story. Good luck…
Christians do this all the time. We don’t understand the Story. We walk into the movie 30 minutes late and wonder why things don’t make sense.
So, where does the Story really begin?
Many religious people start with ‘sin.’ But that would be starting the Story in Genesis chapter 3. Many other Christians start with Genesis chapter 1, which is a good place to focus on—it helps us to see God created a beautiful world and made humans in His image. But to start with Genesis 1 is still like arriving late to the movie. If we want to start at the beginning, we need to turn to John 1:1,
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God…
Before the creation of the world, in eternity past, there was God. How the Story unfolded from there isn’t spelled out in Genesis, but we can piece it together from other places in Scripture. The Story begins with God. And God existed in community as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We know that God is love, and at some point, out of love, He creates angels and places them into the Story.
But one of the angels grew tired of his place in the Story. He wanted the Story to be about him. And so Lucifer led a revolt against God, and succeeded in convincing one-third of the angels to join him. The rebellion was quashed, but Lucifer was allowed to live and, along with his troops, was banished from the presence of God.
This all happened before the Genesis 1:1 ‘in the beginning.’ And to miss this crucial part of the Story is to misunderstand and misinterpret the context of the rest of the Story. Before we get to Genesis 1:1, we have to understand that, 1) God is love, and that 2) the setting for the Story we find ourselves in is a battleground.
We live in a love story, and the stage is set against the backdrop of a world at war.
This explains a lot, doesn’t it? If we somehow don’t realize we are in a battle, it becomes shocking when bombs are going off and bullets are whizzing by our heads. Evil happens all around us, and if we don’t remember the context and setting of the Story, we leave out the power of Love and we blow right past the reality of spiritual warfare.
Recently I wondered aloud with a friend of mine who is much wiser and more thoughtful than I (that isn’t saying much, but still…) about the Love Story we are invited into by God. We wondered, “Why is it that so many Christians forget that love is driving the Story? What is the result of missing out on that part of the context? Is that why we Christians revert to an old-covenant mindset where ‘obedience’ becomes the point? Is that why so many people who desire to serve and follow Jesus get burned out—because we have de-emphasized the passionate Love Story God is telling? Is that why we scurry to teach (our version of) correct doctrine and theology without much more than a cursory mention of the Love of God that we have been caught up in? Is that why we so easily forget ‘whose’ we are — Who we belong to — and revert to the illusion of control that ‘right behavior’ and ‘obedience’ seem to offer? Why are Christian leaders and pastors afraid to lavishly proclaim the Love of God and to trust that Love—not guilt, shame, “shoulds and oughts” or old-covenant conditions—will motivate God’s people to love and serve the world around them?”
Then we wondered about the consequence of forgetting the reality of living in a Story set against the backdrop of an ongoing cosmic war between God and the enemy. Is it any wonder that so many of our sisters and brothers get ‘taken-out’? Is it a surprise that Christians become confused and blame God for the evil that is actually wrought by the enemy? How can we wage war against injustice and evil if we forget our battle is not primarily “against flesh and blood”?
Friends, if we want to engage the Story we find ourselves in, we dare not leave out this crucial truth:
We live in a Love Story,
and the stage is set against the backdrop of warfare.
I forget this truth all of the time, but I believe this, my brothers and sisters, makes all the difference in the world…
- How will seeing the larger Story through the lens of Love and of spiritual warfare change your approach to the ministry God has placed before you?
- What does following Jesus look like from the approach of living your life out of your Love Story with Him?
- What changes in our heart when we obey God in the light of His love, rather than out of obligation, ‘should’s or ought’s’?
- And since we live in the midst of a great battle, how will you learn to recognize the warfare and fight?
Doug is the Director of Church Engagement for Reconciled World. From an early age, he had a heart for cultures around the globe and has had opportunities to learn and minister in a wide variety of international settings. He now regularly speaks at churches and retreats on a wide variety of topics, and is an enthusiastic fan of the Minnesota Vikings and Twins.