The Reconciled World (5)
“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
The crawling locust,
The consuming locust,
And the chewing locust,
My great army which I sent among you.
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the LORD your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame.
Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel:
I am the LORD your God
And there is no other.
My people shall never be put to shame. Joel 2.25-27
Made for restoration
If you think about it, restoring things comes naturally to human beings; it’s almost as if the work of restoration is built into the warp and woof of our souls. God has given us the ministry of reconciliation, and for us, this takes the form of restoring the world Christ has reconciled to the Father, so that more of His glory comes to light in the world.
We are natural-born restorers. Large and well-known organizations exist, for example: to restore rights long withheld or denied (NAACP); animals to health and happiness (ASPCA); natural ecologies to health and flourishing (The Nature Conservancy); old buildings to their original glory (National Trust for Historic Preservation); people who lose their jobs to the workforce (U. S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration); art works to their original condition (The Pennsylvania Art Conservatory); and even the lawns in our community to a state of neatness and health, week after week.
Encyclopedia Britannica defines the work of art restoration or conservation this way: “any attempt to conserve and repair architecture, paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, and objects of the decorative arts (furniture, and so on) that have been adversely affected by negligence, willful damage, or, more usually, the inevitable decay caused by the effects of time and human use on the materials of which they are made.” Similarly, Britannica defines ecological restoration as “the process of repairing sites in nature whose biological communities…and ecosystems have been degraded or destroyed.” Wikipedia – an increasingly reliable source of information – in an article on “Conservation and restoration of cultural heritage” outlines the kind of work such restoration requires: “Conservation activities include preventive conservation, examination, documentation, research, treatment, and education.” Apparently, there’s a lot that goes into all these many works of restoration in which we as humans engage.
Let’s face it, we don’t like it when things fall into disarray. We are at war with the law of entropy. We dust and vacuum our homes, clean our bodies and clothes, wash our dishes, recycle our recyclables, and even sometimes pick up after ourselves. We upgrade our computers, get new glasses, and change our oil every 3,000 miles, just to conserve and restore things we use every day.
Restoring things comes naturally to us. The problem is not that restoration (the particular aspect of the ministry of reconciliation that Jesus has assigned to us) isn’t something we don’t care to do. The problem is that we don’t fully understand the scope or work of restoration according the model God Himself outlines in His Word. We’re made for restoring things, and we’re actually pretty good at it. But our work of restoration can have more powerful effects on the world when we understand it as God intends.
Identifying the problem
In the case of Israel during Joel’s day, the problem facing the people of Israel is that locusts had ruined their crops and land. But the wasted land was only a symbol of what was going on in the souls of God’s people. The army of locusts that savaged the land of Israel was a work of God’s judgment against the sins of His people (Joel 1.15-17). The wasted land was not the problem; the problem was wasted souls, neglected, degraded, abused, and in disarray (Joel 2.12-17). The restoration of the land was a sign that souls were in need of being restored. Once the souls were restored, the restoring of the land could proceed with the blessing of God. God Himself would restore the wasted years, as the people set their souls on Him and worked the land as they had been appointed to do.
The problem causing the need to restore human rights, abused pets, languishing old buildings, works of art, unkempt lawns, dirty clothes, and wasted ecosystems is, in a very real sense, the same problem faced by ancient Israel. A spiritual law of entropy operates in the souls of people, and throughout God’s creation, and causes the good world to groan and travail rather than to flourish and abound. Sin affects our relationship with everything in the world, and the world shows the effects of our sins in needing continuous restoration.
So the problem requiring the work of restoration is, in the first instance, the sin which operates throughout the world, affecting creation’s proper freedom and flourishing, and making it necessary for sinful people to do the work of restoration in practically every area of life, over and over again. If we can get on top of the sin problem in our souls and lives, we’ll be in a better position to bring restoration to the reconciled world in many other areas as well.
For goodness’ sake
The Scriptures insist that the goodness of God is in all the earth (Ps. 33.5). We don’t have to look very far to see how true that is. God loves the world so much that He causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on all parts and people in it (Matt. 5.45-58). He makes plants to grow season after season, and provides a continuous supply of other essentials for our wellbeing (Ps. 104.10-24). God restores the goodness we consume, or destroy, or neglect. And His work of restoring the creation is a kind of model for our own, which we are following – wittingly or otherwise – in all our own restoring work.
By addressing the sin problem in our lives – through confession, repentance, and obedience to God’s Word – we make room for the Holy Spirit to do that work of renewing our souls that prepares us for restoring the reconciled world in whole and part. And that entails a good bit of work – identifying opportunities, diagnosing needs, taking corrective actions, putting in place preventive measures, reviewing and revising, training and educating, and more.
We need neither fight nor fear God’s calling to the ministry of reconciliation. We simply need to broaden our focus, sharpen our skills, enlarge our vision, and join with Christ the Reconciler, as He works daily to make all things new.
1. Why do people create organizations to restore things?
2. What are some ways that you are already practicing restoration?
3. How can we sharpen our focus on the “all things” God has called us to restore in this part of the ministry of reconciliation?
Next Steps – Preparation: Make a list of things you will do today that are forms of the work of restoration. Commit those works to God in prayer, then take them on as part of your calling to the ministry of reconciliation.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Natural Born Restorers
- T.M. Moore
- May 18, 2020
We do it all the time.
The Reconciled World (5)