Recently, I’ve really been building up a strong sense of the way Jesus, in so many of His encounters with people in the Gospels, effects — or at least offers to effect — the restoration of our humanity.
This certainly seems to be the subtext in Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, for example. And he straight out asks the crippled man in John 5, ‘Do you want to be made well (or whole)?’ Likewise, the man possessed by a legion of demons in Mark 5 is lifted out of his thoroughly dehumanised plight in a dramatic ‘preview’ of the final judgement and victory of God over demons, death and disease.
God’s gracious intervention in human life serves the purpose of fulfilling, perfecting, enabling us to be more truly ourselves. Grace, as they say, perfects nature.
And yet as Colin Gunton has emphasised this perfection is a ‘redemptive perfection’. Something requiring cleansing and often costly change.
Time and again in the Gospels we see that massive wrenching is involved in God’s restorative work in Christ. The legion of demons had to be driven out and the pigs plunged into the lake for the man’s humanity to be restored. This is no a simple affirmation of the status quo. God doesn’t just give his stamp of approval to the world as we know it. Rather, in a cataclysmic confrontation — which climaxes in the cross and resurrection of the Messiah — He asserts His authority and plants the flag of His ultimate victory in the soil of His creation.
In short, I’m finding this idea of ‘redemptive perfection’ increasingly generative…