Yoder: Is the Kingdom a Train or a Taxi?

I’m currently reading Yoder’s Theology of Mission (thanks, IVP!). In a chapter on the ministry of Paul in salvation history, he makes an important point between proclamation and persuasion. He points out that the New Testament witnesses proclaimed the good news of the Gospel and did not utilize many of the manipulative methods of persuasion that we currently see in many settings (fear of hell, “if you died tonight,” your life would be so much better, etc…).

He then compares these two approaches of gospel-witnessing to the difference between a train and a taxi. A taxi can’t go anywhere unless a person wants to get in it and pay for it. Therefore, a taxi must sell an individual on their service. A train, on the other hand, is on a schedule and will reach its destination regardless of an individual passenger’s desire. You can get on, or stay off, but either way the train is going.

“Whether somebody gets on the train is completely his or her decision. But if somebody does not get on, they do not go anywhere. Moreover, what constitutes the destination does not depend on them at all.
Think of the difference as it relates to evangelism. Modern Western evangelism says, “Won’t you please get on so I can have a fare? Because I have to make my living running this taxi.” Kingdom of God proclamation says, “This train is bound for glory. Get on or get left.” The objectivity, the fact that the train is going to leave without us if we do not get on, the fact that the Kingdom is coming whether we want it or not, is the way of the kingdom whether we like it or not. As it happens, we will find that it is a good trip. But whether the conductor gets paid does not depend on whether we get on. The train is simply going. The kingdom is not a taxi. The kingdom is more like a train.” (109-110)

Do you agree with Yoder?
Is the Kingdom more like a train or a 

A God who Raises the Dead!

I am writing my thesis on Galatians. There are various reasons why this book captivated me enough to decide to spend 3+ years researching and writing on it…and one of the main reasons is the opening verse:

Galatians 1:1 – Paul, an apostle – not from men nor through men, but through Jesus Christ and God our Father who raised him from the dead…

This is the only explicit mention of the resurrection in Galatians and many assume that the resurrection has no real part in the trajectory of Galatians. But its importance does not come from the number of times it is mentioned, rather from its placement. Paul’s first point, as he tries to convince the Galatians that there is only one gospel, is that God raises Jesus from the dead.

For those of us who grew up in church and have heard this in sermons, seen it in passion plays, spoke it through songs this is not all that surprising…but it does not mean it is any less amazing. Just take a moment wherever you are reading and say these words out loud, “God raised Jesus from the dead.” He was not asleep, he was not just buried in a tomb, he was dead…and God RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD!

For Paul, however, it does not stop there:

Ephesians 2:4-6 – But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

All those saved by the grace of God have been made alive! This is not something we have to wait for, it is something we have right now in Christ Jesus. The God who raised Jesus from the dead has made us alive together with Christ! Do it one more time, wherever you are say this out loud, “I am alive with Christ!”

In Galatians, Paul is facing disappointment and even anger over their decision to turn to another gospel. His first response is to lean on God’s ability to raise the dead. The gospel he believes and preaches requires this – to be brought from dead to life, from dead to alive requires a God who can raise the dead.

I do not know the problems facing you, nor do I know the way God will choose to comfort you in them and deliver you from them…but like Paul I do believe that we worship a God who raises the dead. No matter your situation this is the truth of the gospel. The God who empowers the gospel is a God who raises the dead.

Let us trust in that promise!

A God with No Limitations (Kingdom of God Week 6)

Note: This is the first blog post about the current study, but it is the last week of the study…so just  like Paul’s letters if you haven’t heard what has come before some of the allusions, echoes may be missed.

Just to give a quick recap, this study of the Kingdom of God covered six characteristics of the Kingdom of God which Jesus announces has come at the beginning of his ministry. The study focused on Isaiah and the ways it predicts the Kingdom will come. It was an attempt to not jut learn about what Isaiah prophesied but to begin to believe that with Jesus’ announcement these have become reality…that the promises of God are not just true (will happen) but his promises are real (are happening).

The six characteristics most common in Isaiah are:

1. Deliverance/Salvation – God has acted to deliver us and now reigns over our life, and is present to us and with us, and will be forever.

2. Joy/Rejoicing – Joy is the product of abundance, and is comes as we feast on the goodness of Christ.

3. Peace – Peace is not the result of eliminating conflict, but of believing the battle has already been won.

4. Authority/Rule – God’s kingdom is wherever God is King.

5. Justice/Righteousness – God’ judgment reveals his righteousness, they are moments leading us to see his majesty.

And finally, tonight:

6. Comfort/Shepherd

The Bible talks a lot about sheep and shepherds and it has become ordinary to describe sheep in a particular way…stupid. While it is true that sheep will never be confused with a Rhodes scholar or Nobel price winner it is somewhat of a mischaracterization to consider them just stupid:

-Yes they do keep their heads down and eat most of the time but when called to move they go

-And as they go they often get in some form of a line looking at nothing other than the sheep in front of them and will follow it wherever it goes (even off the cliff to its death for example, one example of why they are considered stupid)

But there is something interesting here also…sheep follow the shepherd not just because they are to stupid to do anything else but because they completely trust the shepherd.

-If they are eating and the shepherd calls to move, they don’t question, “Why? The grass is fine here.” They trust that the shepherd will lead them to greener pastures and they go.

-And as they go they don’t question, “Is this really the best way? I think we should have turned left back there.” They trust the shepherd will lead them to the destination.

And in Isaiah this is what God’s Kingdom looks like – there are greener pastures, places of abundance and rest, but ultimately God’s Kingdom promises are his plea that we can trust him…he will take us to the greener pastures…he will guide us along the path…he is our shepherd. Can we believe his promises are real so we can trust in him like sheep?