by Ciro Castro
I am an alien. I didn’t find that out until about five years ago when I was doing my U.S. taxes for the first time. The IRS defines an alien as “any individual who is not a U.S. citizen or U.S. national.” If you expanded that definition, you could probably say that I’ve been an alien almost my whole life. I have not lived in the country where I hold citizenship, Brazil, since I was a toddler.
When I was three years old, my family left Brazil and moved to the Middle East to be missionaries there. The move was difficult for my parents with three young kids all under the age of five. When they moved, they felt like aliens because they were strangers in a land that was not their own. I don’t remember much about that time, but I do know this—God’s plan and purpose for my life didn’t begin then. That was a significant year because God was at work in my life, but His plan and purpose were in place long before. The same is true for all of us.
The Mission of God
When talking about the mission of God, we often start with Genesis 3, with the narrative of the sin and Fall of humankind, and we talk about it in such a way that it feels like that was the key moment that kickstarted God’s plan for His creation. When we do that, we fail to grasp God’s overarching purpose that was set in place even before He made anything. We can’t ignore Genesis 3; we are all aware of our sin nature and fallenness. But we can still firmly hold to the fact that the plan and purpose of God for His world didn’t begin after the Fall but before.
God’s mission was set in place at the beginning. As He created in Genesis 1, God revealed His purpose for creation, which was threefold:
- The flourishing of humanity
- The communion and intimate relationship between humanity and God
- The worship of God
This is what I believe God intended from the beginning. God didn’t alter His plans as a result of our sin—that would give the devil and us too much credit. God simply made a way for us to return to what He intended from the very beginning, to true and full flourishing, communion, and worship for eternity.
The Flourishing of Creation
First, God’s purpose was for the flourishing of creation through the pouring out of His love on them. In Genesis 1:27, God made mankind in His own image. Then in verse 28, it says, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’” Later when Jesus came, He said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
God’s plan was and is for us to experience fullness of life from Him in the way He intended it to be not the crooked way the world defines it. The flourishing that we experience from God involves a reconciled relationship with God, ourselves, others, and creation.
Communion Between Humanity and God
Second, God’s purpose was for communion between humanity and God, love flowing back and forth between us and Him. We read of the close relationship Adam and Eve had with God in the Garden as He walked with them. When Jesus came, He restored us into that same intimate relationship so we could have direct access to God and walk closely with Him.
Paul writes, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:19). One definition of that word reconciliation is a restoration of favor. We have not just been stripped of our sinful nature; we have been restored into the favor of God where we get to discover the joy of communion and intimate relationship with Him. Our communion with God goes beyond just personal relational restoration as the world witnesses the life of Christ being lived out in us.
Third, God’s purpose was for us to worship Him, releasing our love back up to him. True worship is the exaltation of God to His rightful place. It is the offering of not just our bodies but our whole lives as a sacrifice unto God (see Rom. 12:1). True worship is our obedient response to Him and the priority we place on who God is in our lives. This is where Adam and Eve failed. Their mistake in turning their worship toward something other than God not only robbed God of His worship but also severed their communion with Him and replaced the flourishing God had intended for the world with death and brokenness.
Sharing Our Rescue Story
These three areas not only demonstrate the purpose of God toward His creation from the beginning of time but also what Jesus came to restore because of what we lost through our sinfulness. If we are in Christ, then we all have a rescue story. None of us have come to where we are on our own. We were dead, and now we have been made alive with Christ.
We are first and foremost the object of God’s mission and the recipients of His good work. God first needs to do His good work in us—to draw us to Himself, to give us new life—so that He can do His good work through us. We who are in Christ are to continually be the expression of what God intended for creation, in the power of the Spirit of God, becoming more and more like Jesus, the perfect expression of a life devoted to the purpose of God for His glory. The fullness of the life of Christ in us is what empowers us to live the life He has before us, joining Him in His mission as His witnesses in the world.
We are the objects and the recipients, but we are also the agents of God’s mission and the instruments of His good work. This is what it means to be on mission with God.
Seek the Shalom of God
First, we receive the abundant life Jesus offers when we join His family, and we are sent out to be on mission with Him in the communities He has placed us in, acknowledging that God is already at work in those places. We have been blessed to be a blessing to our neighbors and to the nations.
Even if you feel like you have been displaced, listen to God’s directive to the Israelites in exile in Jeremiah 29:7: “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” The word used there for peace is shalom. We translate it as peace, but in his book Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, Cornelius Plantinga says that scripturally, “shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight . . . Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”
We are to seek the peace and prosperity—the shalom of God—in the city to which God has carried us, whether we have been there for 30 years or 30 days.
Answer the Invitation to Relationship
Second, we experience the deeper life and deep communion Jesus offers when we enter into relationship with Him, and we are sent out to invite others into relationship with Jesus. As my good friend Zach says, “We can’t do everything and then fall short of the proclamation of the gospel and the invitation into relationship with God.”
Within our context in the Middle East, it often took us a long time to get to this point. The love of Christ we could offer may have softened their hearts, but it was only the gospel of Christ that would change and transform.
We don’t just want to see a thriving community that is far from the presence of God. We know that true flourishing cannot happen apart from God. We want the people of our cities and beyond to come to an intimate relationship with Jesus, to experience the depths of His love, and to walk closely with Him in daily abiding.
Go Out Because He is Worthy
Third, as we enter into relationship with Jesus, we posture our lives around the worship of God. Once again, this requires us to go out to our communities with the purposes of God in mind. But why do we go? What should be our primary motivation?
We can give a lot of great answers here. We go because we want people to experience the abundant life Jesus offers, to receive care and nourishment and health. We go because people need to hear the good news, because there are parts of the world that have little to no access to the gospel, no opportunity to be in relationship with God. We go because there are parts of our own communities where Christ is rejected and there is no two-way relationship with Him. On the front page of the Alliance website, it states, “Because we have experienced His love, hope, and mercy first-hand, we are compelled to make Him known to all people in every segment of society.”
And to all of that I say “Amen!” But let me give you another reason why we go. It’s because Jesus not only deserves to be known, but He is also worthy to be worshiped by all nations and all people. The conquering Lion came as a sacrificial Lamb to die for all people—for you and for me—and He was resurrected to provide us redemption from our sins and reconciliation with the Father for all eternity.
You and I are standing here as a testament to the fact that this good news that has been shared with us and that we are now compelled to proclaim to others is not just for one people group—it is for all people. And if we truly believe that it’s for all people, and if we truly believe that Jesus is worthy, then we will go.
The Fulfillment of His Purpose
Our motivation to join God in the flourishing of our communities and the invitation into communion with God is so that God can be glorified in the lives of all people. We want worshipers of God to be raised up in our cities because God is deserving of all of our praise and honor and glory. We want worshipers of God to be raised up among the nations because He deserves to be glorified in the lives of all people.
I started by sharing about my journey of discovering my alien status here in the United States, but the truth is that we’re all aliens and foreigners in this world. When Peter talks about being an alien in his epistle, he’s talking about Christians whose home is with God (see 1 Pet. 2). One day, we will be reunited to our Father, and will dwell in our eternal home with Him, where we will see the fulfillment of the purpose of God for His creation from before time.
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Illustration by Julissa Matias Flores