We fear a lot of things.
- We fear the loss of power—whether it is our position at work, in school, or our social standing—and so we insulate that power by hiding our flaws, sweeping our mistakes under the rug, and playing it safe.
- We fear the loss of money, so we insulate it by locking it away and pretending we don’t have any when friends need our help.
- We fear the loss of relationships. We don’t like being without a boyfriend or girlfriend, or fear the prospect of a future without a spouse. We’re afraid to offend friends or parents, so we avoid saying something even when we know it’s the right thing to say.
We wrap everything we’re afraid of losing in layers and layers of bubble wrap and overlook the thing which we ought to be afraid of—namely, suffocating in all that bubble wrap! All of our risk-averse padding has immobilized us; we’re choking in our protective gear.
But we were made for more than safety. Here’s what I mean:
Everyone thinks the Great Commission is in Matthew 28:18-20, but we forget that the original Great Commission was given in Genesis 1:28:
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
From the start, humans were commissioned to fill the earth with good governance and subdue that which is out of alignment with God. We were commissioned to rule as people who act alongside God in the flourishing of creation and the release of shalom. The Hebrew verbs here are costly commands. Mala (fill) can be translated “satisfy,” or “fulfill.” Kabash (subdue) is what you do to an opposing invasive force. And radah (rule over) is what those who govern complex works must do to insure the common good and success of a mission. We were made for this good and dangerous work, and have been given authority to collaborate with God to satisfy the earth, to subdue those forces that oppose flourishing, and to govern well. But sadly, we’ve relinquished that commission when the Serpent convinced us we could do it without God.
We were made for this good and dangerous work, and have been given authority to collaborate with God to satisfy the earth, to subdue those forces that oppose flourishing, and to govern well. But sadly, we’ve relinquished that commission when the Serpent convinced us we could do it without God.
Even after we started believing that lie, the impulse to do good stayed with us; just about everyone feels the wretchedness of evil and the desire to set things right. But if we’re going to properly collaborate in the flourishing of creation, our mission must be both an internal and external one. We must be brought into alignment with God ourselves even as we work to bring the world into alignment. And we must prioritize it in that order—getting right with God, then helping the systems, structures, people, and environment come into alignment and start flourishing.
Part of being brought into alignment involves exercising the power and authority we are each given as disciples of Jesus. The same power and authority Jesus gave the Twelve (to drive out all demons, to cure diseases, and to proclaim the kingdom of God) is on loan to us now, to use as we work with God in making things right. But when we are bound up in bubble wrap, it’s hard to step out in that authority!
The mission God has given us is costly. It requires vulnerability and an extravagant expenditure of our reputation, our relationships, our money, and whatever authority we have been afforded. But I urge you to take that risk and step out in the authority that God has for you. Bring flourishing in the spheres where you live, work, and go to school. Come under Jesus and listen for those costly invitations to speak up, act up, and move out. And keep doing this over and over again because every time we refrain from obeying we insulate ourselves to God’s invitation to satisfy the earth, subdue evil, and govern well.
To prevent atrophy, our authority must be exercised by taking risks—costly risks. But the kingdom is worth it. Jesus is worth it! It may be costly, but not taking the risk is much more costly. There is a fear which drives us into self-protection. There is a fear which causes us to hibernate and abdicate, taking a pass on God’s mission for us. This is the fear from which we must protect ourselves.
Challenge yourself in those times where you’re afraid, when you’re thinking, This will take a chunk out of my bank account, or This will put me in a very difficult spot with my friends or family, or What if I lose my job over this? These sorts of fears create spiritual suffocation. But when we step out in submission to God and with the authority to bring flourishing—especially in places of sickness, decay, corruption, and hatred of God—we become who we were made to be.
So get right with God. Claw your way out of the bubble wrap, and step out in authority to fill the earth with God’s good governance. This is what you were made for!