Attentiveness: Looking to Jesus
Dr. Scott W. Sunquist
“Looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:2a)
An individual, a local congregation, The Church, and even a seminary should keep both eyes focused on Jesus. Often, we think of focusing on Jesus on the cross, the suffering Jesus who paid the penalty for our sins. I would like to suggest we also keep our eyes focused on Jesus in glory: the lamb (sacrifice) on the throne (victorious).
Why? Because this vision of heaven (Revelation 7:9-17) points to both the fulfillment of our lives, and the goal of the Church. I have summarized this with following three phrases:
- Many languages
- One Lamb
- No tears
This is where we are going: to a place where all the languages and cultures of the world are included in harmonious worship; a place where all eyes are focused on Jesus, and Jesus only; and it is a life where all the diseases, pandemics, sufferings, and injustices of the past are gone. If that is where we are going, then that should guide our purpose or mission now. We work toward this future.
Many Languages: This little phrase emphasizes two realities. First, we are committed to reaching those whom we have historically excluded from hearing of the love of God in Jesus Christ. It means frontier missions are a priority. But it also means we include different languages, cultures, and races in communities now. This is our future, so we receive it and nourish it now. No ethnocentrism, racism, or segregation in heaven!
One Lamb: Again, this little phrase points to two important truths. Our message is focused on the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ and all that means for us. We have a core message about Jesus who is the sent one from the Father and who sends us out in the power of his Holy Spirit. But this also reminds us that there is only one Lamb, only one God. It points to the reality of the first two commandments which were a challenge to ancient Middle Eastern cultures, and it is a challenge to our pluralistic religious sensibilities today. Only One God.
No Tears: Finally, no tears means that all the suffering of this world will be gone in heaven, so we should work to remove all that suffering now. Counselors often say that many clients come to them in some state of PTSD, extreme stress, anxiety and/or grief. This is why counselors and pastors have tissue boxes in their offices. There are many tears. Tears in this world are caused by all types of suffering. There are enough tears caused by natural disasters, but it seems that most of the tears are caused by the sinfulness of our fellow humans. We are hurting people who are hurting people. It is clear that we should focus our lives here to work toward that heavenly existence by reducing the many causes of suffering in this life.
It just so happens that this is a good way to focus the work of a seminary. We should equip leaders to reach all the cultures and languages of the world and bring people together in just and harmonious communities. We should also proclaim and worship the One God revealed in Jesus Christ. And finally, we should work in our counseling, preaching, pastoral care, evangelism, and in all of our ministries, to wipe away every tear from the eyes of those God brings into our lives. It is a great, high, and holy calling.
This heavenly vision will be calling us forward as we finish our strategic plan for Gordon-Conwell in the coming months.
Scott W. Sunquist, the President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, writes a weekly blog, “Attentiveness” which is posted each Tuesday on the Gordon-Conwell web site. He welcomes comments, responses, and good ideas.