Theology Thursday: The Significance of Missional Values in a Fallen World

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Fantasy World vs. Fallen World

My ten-year-old daughter goes to sleep each night surrounded by stuffed animals — each with a given name — with a mermaid night light, and wearing a unicorn sleep mask. Her world consists of rainbows, unicorns, mermaids and Disney characters. Each night she goes to bed convinced that she is loved by mom and dad and Jesus. I can’t help but sigh when I walk out of her room as I consider the real world that is waiting for her.

She knows a little because she glances up from whatever she is doing while we watch the evening news. She is exposed to the suffering caused by a war in Ukraine, political division in Washington, random murders, school shootings, sex scandals, theft, racism and corruption in one 30-minute report, every day. Not to mention the slings and arrows of elementary school drama. She’s learning that we live in a fallen world.

Seeing the world afresh through her young eyes is a constant reminder that I need to teach and prepare my daughter’s heart with values and affections that will enable her not to just resist the fallen world, but to overcome it, and to carry out a mission that was given to all believers by Jesus Christ.

The Great Fall

The account of the fall of humankind in Genesis chapter 3 teaches us that all of God’s creation was good and humanity was meant to enjoy a life of love, relationship and purpose with God. But humankind was deceived by Satan, chose to disobey God, and introduced sin and evil into the world. From there onward, throughout the Bible, we see accounts of human pride, arrogance toward God, hatred and all manner of depravity. Humankind was in trouble. Fast forward to the first century when the Apostle John summarizes the nature of the fallen world:

“For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world.” – 1 John 2:16, NIV

John points out three distinct values that create strong treacherous currents that people have to swim in daily.

  • Lust of the flesh: The burning desire that places human pleasure as the highest ideal or goal.
  • Lust of the eyes: The persistent longing to be satisfied by the acquisition of things.
  • The pride of life: The insatiable drive to elevate oneself above others and/or to wield power over others.

It’s what we see on the news and feel pulling on our hearts every day as we step into the strong current.

To be sure, God created us to flourish in life. He puts his blessing on appropriate forms of pleasure, meaningful possessions, purposeful activity and positions of influence when we steward them well and serve others. But beware, if we are not intentionally swimming against the current of the world we can get swept away with its lusts, concerns and pride. So how do we overcome the world?

The Anchor of Missional Values

God’s response to our dilemma shows us how to aim and anchor our affections and values for life in this world.

After humankind rebels against God, he initiates a plan to redeem humanity. He shows great mercy and begins to work with fallen human beings throughout the Old Testament on a plan to send his son to earth on a rescue mission.

The Apostle John describes the mission this way:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” – John 3:16-17

What does Jesus do? When anyone, by his grace, puts their trust in Jesus and grasps his hand, he pulls them out of the current. They are forgiven of all their sins and reunited in a sincere relationship with God. They become children of God, Kingdom citizens, and disciples of Jesus Christ.

Adopting God's Missional Values

Jesus then reshapes our hearts with Kingdom values and affections that allow us to navigate a fallen world without being overcome by sin or jaded by evil. They flow out of his mission to save us and the mission he entrusts to us.

First, Jesus wants our love for God to take precedence over every other consideration in life. He put it this way,

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ – Mark 12:30, emphasis added

When we make God our greatest affection it anchors us to an immovable rock that guides our thoughts, words and deeds. Our love for God protects us from giving in to the lusts of the fallen world.

Second, Jesus wants us to love our neighbor (Mark 12:31). God loves the world and so should we. Not the world shaped by sin, but the people caught in the currents that are heading for potential destruction. Jesus said to even “love our enemies and pray for those who mistreat us,” (Matthew 5:44). Our love for others helps us to endure, with purpose, the hatred, mistreatment and persecution this world brings.

Third, Jesus asks his followers to be the “the light of the world.” He asks that our words and actions reflect God’s love, grace and truth. That is a value that reminds us that we are not to participate in the “deeds of darkness,” but instead, our “good deeds” should “glorify [our] Father in heaven,” (Matthew 5:16). This puts us in a position to participate in the mission to “make disciples” in a struggling world (Matthew 28:19).

So, for my daughter, I will teach her to love God, to love others, to be kind and loving to all and to hold fast the hand of Jesus. And I will do my imperfect best to model that for her.

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Approved by online full-time faculty for the College of Theology on Feb. 1, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.