Kimberly D. Reisman, Executive Director, World Methodist Evangelism
This fall I have been teaching Evangelism and Mission to seminarians at The School of Theology at Seattle Pacific University. The class meets for three intensive weekends throughout October and November. Early on, my husband, John, joined me for a wonderful long weekend. It was our first attempt at a “working vacation” – I worked, he vacationed. Well, I vacationed a little too, I must admit.
During the day on Friday, before my class time began that evening, John and I hiked up to Rattlesnake Ledge, just outside Seattle. It was an energizing hike and the view at the top was spectacular – a great reward for the effort it took to get there. As we hiked, the beauty of it all pressed in upon me and one thought kept running through my mind: creation is never an afterthought in Christian faith; it is foundational. All else moves outward from there.
That idea isn’t always as obvious as it should be. It’s easy to flip things around and think of God as the Redeemer who also creates, rather than as the Creator who also redeems. But that would be a mistake borne of placing ourselves at the center of the universe, rather than the one who truly belongs there – God.
God creates. God redeems. Christian faith is deepened and enriched when we get the order right. This is especially true in the arena of evangelism, where our focus is often on individuals and our fervent hope that they might come into relationship with Jesus Christ. There is no doubt this is an extremely important focus. Yet something significant is lost when the lens of our spiritual life remains set on zoom rather than wide angle.
The faith we receive when we encounter Jesus Christ is faith in a Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Of course, the second person of the Trinity is vital; but our creeds remind us of the order: we believe in the Father, Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. Starting there widens the scope of redemption considerably – it is indeed good news for all creation.
As we reach out to others on behalf of Jesus Christ, we would do well to remember that sin – our need for redemption – is not the reason for God’s grace. God’s grace is part of God’s very nature. It was alive and active within our Triune God and bore creation into existence long before sin entered the picture. And it will abound overwhelmingly, long after sin has been eliminated and God’s new creation is experienced in all its fullness.
As Christians, we worship a creating, redeeming, sustaining God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the God who redeems not only human beings, but the entirety of creation, which Paul tells us is even now groaning, as God continues work within it for God’s redemptive purposes. We worship a creating, redeeming, sustaining God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the God who is working, even now, to eliminate evil and bring to fruition the justice and peace of the kingdom inaugurated in Jesus of Nazareth. It is this God who creates. It is this God who redeems.