Learning from one another despite differences

Written by Josiah Piett

As followers of Jesus, we live with tension. This tension is acknowledged a surprising number of times throughout Scripture, yet often we can completely ignore it. 

Paul describes this tension when describing a core aspect of hope for followers of Jesus. He states in conversation with the Roman church how there is tension in being a new creation in Christ while still waiting to fully live in this reality. “We hope for what we do not yet see, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:25, ESV). 

When Jesus came to Earth announcing a new kingdom, died on the cross, and then rose from the dead, these events changed our perception of both our current and future reality. One of the pressing questions we’re left with is: What happens now to humanity and the world in light of these events? Christians’ various responses to this question impact the way we live our lives. 

Some believe that when Jesus said it was finished, He meant that health, wealth (from a financial and relational reality) and prosperity (impact on others) are to be expected in the life of all followers of Jesus as part of “bringing” the Kingdom of God to places we find ourselves in. This view, called the triumphalism perspective, can be expressed by ideas such as, “If there is no sickness in heaven then—through Christ’s victory on the cross—there should be no sickness on Earth.” 

One thing we can learn from this way of thinking is that there is a New Testament understanding that Christians are to pray for God’s kingdom to be the reality on earth. I would suggest that we do not usher in or expand God’s kingdom but we absolutely witness it in our midst, including seeing people be physically healed. 

However, this perspective can often mean reducing pain and suffering’s role in our lives to be a means of revealing God’s power over these circumstances. Thus, healing should be not only prayed for but expected in every circumstance. Yet there are stories recorded in the New Testament letters of people who were not healed from physical ailments even when in the presence of apostles. Could this not speak to a more complex tension within our current reality?

Other Christians believe the victory Christ accomplished through His death and resurrection will become the reality after final judgement day. This view, often found in evangelical circles, places a great emphasis on evangelism by inviting people to repent to God or perish. Holiness and preaching the gospel become the bedrock in this circle. 

From this view, we can learn that we are called to proclaim the good news, not just with actions but with words as well. Many Christians shy away from explicitly sharing the gospel with their words. The popular quote, often misattributed to Francis of Assisi, “Share the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary,” encapsulates this thinking. 

But this teaching is not seen in New Testament at all; there was always an integrative relationship between the words and deeds of Jesus and His disciples. We need both, and those who view our primary role as evangelizing people before final judgement remind us of this. 

In contrast, my concern with this view is that fear or judgment toward others (and ourselves) can often be stronger motivators for those living out this view than their faith in Christ.

Fear and judgement were not the motivations the early church demonstrated for proclaiming the gospel. 

The apostles’ writings to the early church reveal a deep conviction and assurance that God is already at work in our midst and we have the opportunity to be transformed through this work God is inviting us into. 

This isn’t the part where I tell you what I think you should believe. Instead, I want to invite you to lean into the question: What happens now to humanity and the world, in light of Christ’s death and resurrection? How does your response to this question affect the way you live your life? 

I have close friends who align with both of the views outlined above. Instead of sparking further separation or division over these differing perspectives, I hope to prompt us to process together what we think, why we think it, and how it affects our daily lives. 

What can we learn from one another? By examining the two viewpoints described above, we can see the many different Christian responses to this question. I will say, I think this life of following Jesus is a journey of discovering new things, letting go of old things, and being slowly and surely transformed by the Holy Spirit and the situations and relationships we form. This journey is a lot messier than I often want to admit, but it is also more holy-ish. 

Josiah Piett has the privilege of being a child of God, husband to Kara-Lee, and a house church pastor. He also suffers from severe lifelong health issues. These experiences have shaped him into having a passion for seeing people discover who they are in Christ and their role to play in the Father’s Kingdom. To learn more about Josiah’s work, check out @theknjcast on Instagram.

Read more from the “Digging deeper” column.