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Our lives as new creations

Ethics is born out of identity, says Dr Deirdre Brower-Latz

Christians’ lived-out ethics are always grounded in who God is and worked out in real life, writes Dr Deirdre Brower-Latz, principal and senior lecturer, Nazarene Theological College (England).

Earlier this year a woman who’d joined our church through our coffee shop, who had lived for years under domestic violence but was now free, bounded up to me and said, It’s incredible! – I’ve just been activated in Christ.” It was a great way of describing the Jesus she’d experienced, and her boundless enthusiasm as a newly activated Christian is awe-inspiring. Her whole being, root and branch, has been transformed into a new creation, as all of us should be.

From lifestyle to relationships, money, time, energy, and ways of living in the world, Christ reshapes us into newness of life, lived out over time. Her language of activated made me think about how we respond to God in the everyday decisions of our lives – in what we call ethics.

Paul writes of our transformation in 2 Corinthians 5:17, where he says, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!” and goes on to call us to be Christ’s ambassadors. So, as activated Christians, how does the story of God’s mercy guide our lives? And what does it mean for us to offer our whole being in our everyday living and decisions?

To live like this means to live in the light of God’s character, as He reveals Himself in the Bible. The descriptions of God flow freely: generous creator, life-sustainer, just, caring for the outsider and those least able to sustain themselves, redeemer, hearing the voice of the poorest and most oppressed. Above all, our God is deeply, passionately committed to rightness.

Jesus’ life and His ways of responding to people serve as the pattern for our engagement with people.

God’s character is supremely revealed in His Son, whom we follow. Jesus’ life and His ways of responding to people – re-clothing and right-minding (Mark 5:15), healing, wholeness-bringing, sight-giving, restoring – give us the pattern for our engagement with people. Jesus’ self-identification with the way of God as He brings freedom from sin’s impact and death itself, shape the way we work out our faith in the world.

Delving into the Bible also gives us the narrative of God’s people who were called to live justly – both in the Old Testament people of Israel and in the New Testament church. This pattern reveals more about the mercies of the God we follow, and so many implications work themselves out into our realities: both for us individually and for us, the church. Our life together is called to be a picture of Jesus in the world.

So, in the light of all this, what does it look like for our lives to be new creations’, to be ambassadors of Christ? First and foremost, it means we respond to grace by showing grace to each other and to the world. We who have received the good news go on to share it in lives of active love: at home, in our streets, in our places of work and of rest. In doing so, we offer our mouths, hands and feet to God’s kingdom breaking into earth: healing, life-giving, nurturing, embracing, freeing and including.

Secondly, we live out this new creation by repeatedly exercising our muscles of cooperation with God’s purposes when it’s difficult: in honesty, in creating home, in living for the welfare of others, in offering radical hospitality to outsiders, in resisting power structures if they oppress, but also working alongside those who seek to serve God in power, and in connecting with the least as if they were Christ. We also take seriously the call to be generous with our material goods, including our salaries, realising that they belong to God first. If we are not well-off, we resist the urge to gain at the cost of our integrity, or to be bound to aspirations that could distort
our lives.

Thirdly, as ambassadors we pause to listen to God’s prompting – being tender-hearted and open to God directing the travel of our lives, including our aspirations for our futures and our families. We are open to an alternative imagination that will shape our life’s story into one where the goal is generosity not wealth, and where the home and community is a place that draws others into its security rather than keeping others out.

Fourthly, being a new creation means a new way of living harmoniously and joyously in sympathy with the world that God made. Fashioning lives that mirror the Creator’s joy in creation and reflect stewardship of the world, we align ourselves with those who seek to love the planet, from recycling to cycling, from reducing plastic consumption to being thankful for our food. And, because in our earthly lives we tune ourselves to God, we hear the cries of the wronged-against and take their struggles seriously as our problem – especially as they are often the first to suffer from poor stewardship of our natural world. 

Finally, as new creations ourselves, and as ambassadors, we challenge the bringing of death – be it physical death, or the death of hope, aspiration, relationship, meaning or community. By living a just and Christ-centred life we offer a faithful witness of hope to hopeless places. This hopeful way of life
is profoundly spiritual, saturated in prayer.

So, being Jesus’ followers makes us ask ourselves some deep questions that shape our whole lives: if we’re to be the image of Jesus, what people should we align ourselves with? If we’re working with God to bring heaven to earth, what might that mean for the way we live? It’s a day-by-day, moment-by-moment call to be a living sacrifice, a call given to us by Jesus who invites us in as ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:20) here and now as we’re activated in Him.

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