Ephesians 4:16 tells us that from Christ "the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." … [As activists], [w]hen we try to do everything ourselves, we risk disrespecting the diversity of gifts Christ has given to his body.

I remember facilitating a discussion on faith and activism at a conference for university chaplains and ministers. One young woman confessed that she was the consummate "joiner." Give her a Christian cause and something to do, and she was on board. She'd like it on Facebook, follow on Twitter, buy the product, go to the conference, do the small group study. You name it; she'd do it. She was also exhausted, on the verge of burnout. As she spoke, sympathetic heads nodded around the table, including my own.

It struck me that those of us who shared such well-intentioned impulses were actually modeling ourselves after the wrong Christ. Our problem wasn't a lack of concern for Jesus; his heart and compassion drove our response. But in taking the world's burdens onto our backs, we were trying to grow in the image of Christ that we see in Colossians: the cosmic Jesus in whom "all things hold together" and through whose blood God chose to "reconcile to himself all things" (1:17, 20). Horrified by the sin and pain [of the world], we try to stretch wide enough and sacrifice hard enough to fix it. Does this sound like the faith of anyone you know?

Our shoulders aren't big enough for that task. The miracle of the incarnation means that Jesus the man is also the Son of God, and so his sacrifice is sufficient for all of us. As disciples, we are called to conformity with his image, but not to his divinity (see Romans 8:29; Luke 6:40). In the student ministers' discussion, Greg Carmer, the Dean of Chapel at Gordon College, put it well: a mature understanding of the unity of the body of Christ allows us to care about everything Christ cares about, but to carry only what he has given us to bear.

God has predestined us to become "little Christs" as we grow in maturity. Our resemblance to Jesus is like spiritual DNA, wherein all the parts of the body, though different in appearance and function, carry the same essential coding. This doesn't mean that we put our feet up and relax—but how liberating it is to remember that Jesus does not need any help being the head or the whole of the body, and that "each part" can simply focus on doing its own work!

Taken from The World Is Not Ours to Save, by Tyler Wigg-Stevenson. Copyright © 2013 by Tyler Wigg-Stevenson. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. ivpress.com.

See also Wigg-Stevenson's 2008 CT article on similar themes, "A Merciful White Flash."

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The World Is Not Ours to Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good
The World Is Not Ours to Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good
IVP
2013-01-29
222 pp., 16.0
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