To Make All Things New (Lenten Series Part 5)
Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? – Isaiah 43:18-19
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” – Revelation 21:5
We have gone through a lot of doctrinal history and theological complexity over the last several weeks. It’s almost hard to believe that we’ve barely scratched the surface of all the images and metaphors used to talk about Jesus’ atoning work for us in his life, death, and resurrection. While we are by no means expected to remember every atonement theory ever made, I believe it is important for us to keep in mind that there is an immense variety of ways to talk about salvation. There is no one image or metaphor that can fully contain such a broad and all-encompassing subject as salvation. So what does that mean for our thinking about salvation? If there are so many images, what are we supposed to do with them?
As I said at the beginning of this series, atonement theories have unfortunately been viewed as competing visions rather than as complementary images of atonement. Yet as we have seen, using only one model gives us an overly narrow view of salvation. Ransom theory explores our captivity to sin, satisfaction theory explores the reconciliation between ourselves and God, and moral influence theory explores how we transform from ignorance to love as we become aware of God’s love. Focusing on only one of these things leads us to forget the others, and there are so many more things to consider. For example, we have not yet even touched on what salvation looks like for the rest of creation! What does the atonement have to do with ushering in a new heaven and a new earth? The work of salvation is God’s response to the pervasive reality of sin. For since we can see the effects of sin and evil in every facet of creation, we must be aware that God’s salvation addresses every element of creation in return. God’s salvific work touches upon everything. There is nothing crooked that God will not set straight, no injustice that will not be corrected, no brokenness that will not be mended. God’s intention is to make all things new. God makes our lives new, our communities new, and our creation new. This reality cautions us against narrowing our conception of salvation, and even our conception of what God intends for us. For if salvation addresses everything, then how could we hope to contain it? How could we hope to contain such a God?
Even as Jesus subverted and challenged salvific expectations in his own day, he continually subverts and challenges us by the kind of community his salvific work creates. God’s all-encompassing salvation births an all-encompassing people. God continually leads us into a new awareness, a new way of being, a new way of loving, and we see this reflected in the kaleidoscopic nature of salvation itself. Through this manifold salvation in Jesus we are caught up in the overwhelming, surprising, wonderful, all-embracing life of the Divine. That is the glorious reality that Jesus welcomes us into, a reality that he so fervently desired to share with us that he gave his life to see it accomplished. Keeping this in mind, I invite us to remember as we prepare for Holy Week that there is nothing God has left untouched in salvation. Even as we can never exhaust the images of atonement, we can never exhaust the atonement itself. God limitlessly extends grace to restore all of creation, ourselves included. God is making all things new even now.
* Cover photo: The Sacred Heart of Jesus by Stephen B. Whatley, 2010