Stewarding the Mystery of God By Jon Lewis
It is a great gift to be a steward of the Mystery of God.
I love a good mystery! Few things are more entertaining to me than reading an old Sherlock Holmes story or watching a rerun of the Agatha Christie Poirot mini-series. That’s why I’ve been intrigued by what the Bible calls, the “mysteries of God.” Even more, I’ve been wondering exactly what the Apostle Paul means in 1 Corinthians 4:1 when he writes:
“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God .” – ESV
Just what does it mean to be a steward of God’s mysteries, especially today when the Bible has been around for a couple thousand years and is not really that mysterious anymore?
Or is it?
That question was answered for me when I recently taught a course on World Religions for the adult education division of our local Christian university. I figured my students would be young people raised in an American church culture who would want to compare other religious beliefs to their own Christian heritage. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only were they basically biblically illiterate but openly antagonistic to Christianity identifying more with a global secular worldview than anything learned in Sunday School. The Good Samaritan, the Woman at the Well, even a name like Billy Graham were total mysteries to them. Being introduced to orthodox Christianity (as opposed to media Christianity) was as much a new experience for most of them as was learning about Buddhism, Hinduism, or Islam.
That class experience taught me that not only is God’s Truth relatively unknown and misunderstood by today’s young people but learning how to be an effective steward of His mysteries in a secular culture increasingly uninterested in them to start with, is no small challenge. Nevertheless, here are two things that I realize are more essential than ever.
Even though I live in the same country I was born in (seven decades ago,) I have to accept that the culture that surrounds me today is as foreign as if I had been dropped into a country halfway around the world. That means any kind of meaningful communication I want to have will demand first understanding the mindset and values of those I’m talking to. Ben Pierce does a great job of describing the contemporary worldview of today’s global youth culture in his book, Jesus and the Secular World: Reaching a Culture in Crisis. He says it is defined by three core ideas: secularism, relativism, and tolerance. Although these words are familiar, their modern definitions are not. Secularism is more about marginalizing and privatizing spirituality than denying it altogether.
Relativism implies no transcendent or absolute truth, except for one—that truth HAS to be relative. Tolerance is now defined as acceptance of all ideas, but not really acceptance of all people who have different ideas. Is it any wonder that the generation of young people growing up around me believe, as Pierce put it, that sex is meaningless, gender is a personal choice, and monogamy is a joke? I may not like it, but if I expect to have any chance in making the mysteries of God interesting and compelling to those with this worldview, I MUST first rediscover how they think and feel about such things.
Mastering the Mysteries
The second essential is being able to clearly articulate exactly what God’s mysteries are—and to do it in a way that is understandable to whomever I’m talking to. Paul uses the word “mystery” twenty-one times in his epistles, and it appears several other times in the Gospels. Attempting to boil them all down to three key summary statements, I would say they are:
- Jesus Himself – “in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” ~ Colossians 2: 2-3 (NIV)
- The Gospel – “I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people” ~. Colossians 1:25 (NIV)
- Restoration of Everything – “making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” ~ Ephesians 1:9 (ESV)
Living as a Steward
On the last day of class, the students were asked what impacted them most about what we had studied. As much as I had hoped to hear signs of new or transformed worldviews due to the compelling nature orthodox Christianity, that was not the case. There was, of course, plenty of appreciation for a broader perspective of the world and its many religions. But what did strike me was stated affirmation for how I had led the class, not so much in the content presented, but for what they perceived as an appropriate balance between passion for what I personally believed and a sensitivity for alternative viewpoints. In just goes to show that LIVING as a steward of God’s mysteries is just as important as presenting what those mysteries are all about.
Jon Lewis is a Senior Associate for Partnership Advancement with OC International and focuses on encouraging global Christian leaders towards greater ministry effectiveness. With over 40-years of experience, he also served as a MAF mission pilot in Africa and CEO of Partners International.
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