The following is an edited excerpt from Edward’s latest book, The Divine Rescue: The Gripping Drama of a Lost World and of the Creator Who Will Not Let It Go, scheduled for pre-release at Pepperdine University Bible Lectures on May 4-7, 2010. For more details, click here.
Jesus himself envisioned a community of faith, a fellowship of the Rescued, created by his intervention on their behalf. As we read Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew, a picture of that community emerges, and this is what we see. These people are famished for the Creator’s approval, and they will be satisfied with nothing else. They are ravenous for righteousness but not for religion, whether based on shallow show or rationalistic reason. As Jesus envisions it, this is a learning community with Jesus as the teacher. However, these learners are not academicians but apprentices. The program is personal, not professional—pupils learn from Jesus to become like Jesus. Those who learn best and most are known for their service, not their snobbery.
The community of the Rescued does not exist for itself, but for the least, the lost, and the last. This community is neither closed nor exclusive, but ever-expanding, wherever humankind is found. Members of this community follow the Rescuer and share in his mission. They stand firm for justice, work for peace, and accept the persecution that naturally befalls those who live at cross-purposes with society. They practice faithfulness and forgiveness as countercultural values in a confused and fallen world. Once residents of darkness themselves, they now shine as lights in the night, reflectors of the Rescuer who is the true light sent from God. They are salt in a perishing world. Their effectiveness flows from the authority of authenticity, not some presumption of power.
Jesus does not expect his disciples to create such a community by their own wisdom or power. Just as the Father directed and empowered Jesus’ ministry by the Holy Spirit, so Jesus through the same Holy Spirit will guide and enable his community until the end of time. Wherever two or three are gathered in his name, Jesus promises to be present also. It is Jesus’ presence, by and through his Spirit—among that “church of the firstborn ones” now invisible to mortal eyes, and his presence in our visible gatherings of the frail, faltering, and fallible here on earth—that fulfills his parting promise: “Look, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”