An MRI, which is essentially a picture of a persons insides–can reveal a wide range of problems that cannot be seen from the outside. There might be symptoms and complaints but only the MRI can help shed light on what is happening and what the proper treatment may be. Other time there may be no indication that anything is wrong.
Too bad there is no piece of machinery that can offer a spiritual MRI for individuals or even for churches. Can you imagine receiving the results of a “soul scan” that would reveal spiritual sickness that we may or may not have known was present? Hmmmm….that may or may not be a very fun lab report to read through, but at least we’d have no excuses and could seek the proper treatment before the “spiritual cancer” growing inside of became malignant.
We may not have a machine like that, but the church has been given MRI. Leonard Sweet writes:
Jesus revealed to us God’s design for life, the theological shape for living, a “scandalous beauty” that sculpts the body known as the church…Christianity is a design for living as authentic human beings: a [three pronged] process of missionalizing, relationalizing, and incarnationalizing your life and community. MRI is the design by which humans and their communities best construct narrative identities and sense of self.
- Missional is the mind of God. Mission is where God’s head is at.
- Relational is the heart of God. Relationship is where God’s heart is.
- Incarnational is the hand of God. Incarnation is what God’s hand are up to.
This MRI, rather than revealing sickness, is a prescription for health. A healthy relationship with God and a healthy church is defined by mission, relation, and incarnation. Being missional is to take hold of the purpose of God for humanity and the commission that has been given to us by Christ (that is, to make Christlike disciples). Being relational is to recognize that we are relational creatures, designed to be in contact and connection with God and people. Finally, the point at which mission and relation intersect is found in being incarnational. That is, living out our mission and purpose in tangible and meaningful ways through our relationships with others. Being incarnational means “being with” or “dwelling with” the people i our world.
Christmas is a celebration of incarnation — Christ coming to earth to dwell among us. He came with a mission and a purpose carried out through his relationship with people. Everything he did was missional, done according to the purpose for which he had been sent, and everything he did was relational. The Incarnation was not something that occurred in a lowly stable on a single night in Bethlehem. Rather, it began on that night and continued every day in every conversation, every interaction, and every activity in which he was engaged.
We are the body — the physical expression — of Christ in our world today. We could say that we are the continuing incarnation of Christ to the people around us. Jesus Christ is our model of mission, relationship, and incarnation. Unfortunately, if we were to give ourselves a spiritual MRI I think we might find that many times and in many ways we do not very well represent the person and ministry of Christ. Why is this? We call ourselves the body of Christ, but are we really? it’s a question we must take seriously and thoughtfully consider as we think about the way we exist and function as the church and the way we exist and function as followers of Christ in our world.
The sick and the sinners were very comfortable around Jesus and Jesus was very comfortable around them. He ate with them, talked with them, touched them, prayed for them, and showed them the respect and honor that no one else would give to them. Can we say that same about most Christians today? Are the sick and the sinners comfortable around us? Are we comfortable around them? Are we missional, relational, and incarnational? Or would we rather huddle amongst ourselves, defining mission is a way that is comfortable and easy, reducing relationship to only those who agree with me, and saving the talk of incarnation to a once-a-year celebration of the birth of Christ.
Christ came that we might have new life. We are saved and sanctified from sin, this is true, but we are also saved and sanctified FOR a purpose; a purpose that can only be fleshed out by living our lives in this world according to the MRI we’ve been given.