20 Apr #117 – How Easter Shapes Business
Easter is important for every worker or business leader who follows Jesus because it serves as a reminder of a bigger WHY and a sacred relevance for our work and business rooted in God’s Restoration plan for His Kingdom. N.T. Wright writes that the resurrection represents the beginning of God’s new project “to colonize earth with the life of heaven.” Believing that Easter is the beginning of a project to bring heaven to earth in a restored Kingdom has huge implications for work and business. It gives forward-looking purpose and relevance to the underlying importance of work and business we can only learn from Genesis–work and business were designed as sacred activities not only as platforms and vehicles for evangelism but as ways to beautify the world. It means every business decision has the potential to move God’s Kingdom a little closer to God’s perfect Restoration. It means work and business have intrinsic Kingdom value, and the WHY and HOW of our work and business matter. He is risen indeed!
With the miracle of Easter still in our rearview mirror, we thought it would be a good time to revisit a topic we discussed back in post #050 (Where Are We Going–A Restored City). and post #051 (Where Are We Going–We Have a Role). Our inspiration came from an N.T. Wright quote that was in a church bulletin on Easter Sunday:
Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.
It relates to a topic we have touched on in many posts–the impact of a BIGGER Gospel on how we see work and business. But we want to narrow our focus to how the miracle of Easter should shape how we work and how we lead businesses.
BIGGER Gospel: A “Kingdom” Refresher
If a leader or an organization is committed to “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33), it is necessary to understand the Bible from a “Kingdom” perspective.
At Integrous, we believe that many faith-driven leaders are operating out of a narrow and incomplete vision of God’s story. But it is not their fault. Many churches and religious leaders have presented (and continue to present) a Biblical message that truncates the narrative of the Bible. This difference is often referred to as a “Four-Part Gospel” (or a “Gospel of the Kingdom”) versus a “Two-Part Gospel” (or a “Gospel of Atonement”).
Four-Part Gospel (“Gospel of the Kingdom”).When you think about the grand Biblical narrative, it can be divided into four key parts: (1) Creation; (2) Fall; (3) Redemption (through Jesus); and (4) Restoration (of God’s Kingdom on earth).
Two-Part Gospel (“Gospel of Atonement”). We believe many churches and religious leaders have emphasized the middle two parts of the Biblical narrative in presenting “the Gospel”: (2) Fall and (3) Redemption (through Jesus). At the risk of oversimplification, this is presented as some variation of “You are a sinner and Jesus came to save you.”
Dallas Willard identifies two forms of what he calls a “Gospel of Sin Management” (and we are calling a “Two-Part Gospel”): a Gospel of the right (correct beliefs) which emphasizes Evangelism and a Gospel of the left (correct actions) which emphasizes a Social Gospel of serving the underserved. A Two-Part Gospel is “good” but not enough to explain the intrinsic value of work and business in God’s Kingdom. A Two-Part Gospel makes it hard to see how work (or business) can matter to God unless it is explicitly evangelistic or is helping the underserved.
The bigger problem with a narrow Gospel is that if you don’t know where you came from or where you are going, it is hard to make sense of where you are and what you should be doing!
By including Creation, a Four-Part Gospel tells WHY we are here, HOW we were made, and WHAT work (and business) and relationships represent in God’s design. By including God’s Restoration plan for His Kingdom on earth, a Four-Part Gospel tells the whole story of WHY Jesus redeemed us (beyond salvation), WHAT we are supposed to do after being redeemed and HOW work (and business) is relevant in God’s Kingdom plan.
Restoration: A “Where We Are Going” Refresher
As we admitted back in post #050, this may be one of the most theologically controversial topics we write about, but it is also one of the most important. It is important because our understanding of “where we are going someday” profoundly affects “how we act today”. At the risk of oversimplifying, there are basically two Biblical views of heaven and what happens to earth (we don’t need to get into theological debates regarding: whether there is a hell; if there a hell, who goes there and who goes to heaven; and if there is a hell, whether it is eternal):
Rapture. People going to heaven are whisked off to an ethereal heaven and the earth burns up.
Restoration. Heaven is here on earth in a restored Kingdom that unites God’s dimension with our earthly dimension.
At Integrous, we believe in the Restoration option. Because we are not theologians, we highly recommend N.T. Wright’s book Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church for a discussion of the two views of heaven, their genesis, as well as an explanation of what we actually learn from the Bible.
How do these two views of heaven impact how we act today:
Rapture. If people going to heaven are whisked off to an ethereal heaven and the earth burns up, what we do on earth doesn’t matter much in the long run (assuming you belief in salvation by faith rather than works)–it is all going away and, ultimately, our efforts to improve the world are in vain. What we do on earth mainly matters to the extent it encourages (or discourages) people to turn toward God or reflects God’s compassion for the underserved (which hopefully also encourages them to turn toward God).
Restoration. If heaven is here on earth in a restored Kingdom that unites God’s dimension with our earthly dimension, then things get exciting because what we do here may last into eternity.
Jesus's resurrection is the beginning of God's new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. (N.T. Wright)
The Importance of Easter for Business
It is obvious Easter is very important for some businesses. (Candy and confections sales for the 2021 Easter season reportedly reached nearly $4 billion.) We believe Easter is important for every faith-inspired worker or business leader because it should serve as a reminder of a bigger WHY for our work and business rooted in God’s Restoration plan for His Kingdom.
As N.T. Wright proclaimed, the resurrection represents the beginning of God’s new project “to colonize earth with the life of heaven.”
Easter for “Rapturists”. If you are firmly planted in the Rapture camp, then Easter is extremely important for you individually. But it should also be relevant to your work or business to the extent you are using it as a platform or vehicle to evangelize others. We can use our work and business to tell people about Jesus and to provide a foretaste of heaven so that people are enticed into putting their faith in Jesus Christ.
Easter for “Restorationists”. Believing that Easter is the beginning of a project to bring heaven to earth in a restored Kingdom has huge implications for work and business.
It means work and business are sacred activities, not only as platforms and vehicles for evangelism but as ways to beautify the world through:
The way in which we work.
The way in which we conduct business and lead organizations.
The products we create that meet needs and provide solutions to the material challenges of human life.
The economic prosperity that makes those products affordable and accessible in a way that cares for all creation.
Every decision has the potential to move God’s Kingdom a little closer to God’s perfect Restoration. Work and business have intrinsic Kingdom value.
The Restoration understanding of heaven we learn from Revelation gives forward-looking purpose to the underlying goodness and importance of work and business we can only learn from Genesis. They are the book-ends. We will end where we began, with a quote from N.T. Wright:
When Paul wrote his great resurrection chapter, 1 Corinthians 15, he didn’t end by saying, “So let’s celebrate the great future life that awaits us.” He ended by saying, “So get on with your work because you know that in the Lord it won’t go to waste.” When the final resurrection occurs, as the centerpiece of God’s new creation, we will discover that everything done in the present world in the power of Jesus’s own resurrection will be celebrated and included, appropriately transformed.
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): Those who have been reading the Integriosity blog will know that N.T. Wright is the author of two of the five books that have most shaped my faith world-view and guided my journey to understanding the intersection of faith and work. These books are:
James Hunter’s book To Change the World when he launched it at the 2010 New Canaan Society national retreat.
Jeff Van Duzer’s book Why Business Matters To God when I heard him speak at the 2012 InterVarsity Believers in Business Conference
Michael Stallard’s book Connection Culture (and its original version, called Fired Up or Burned Out) after we became friends through the New Canaan Society)
But I had not focused on Wright’s quote about the resurrection until it appeared in the Easter Sunday bulletin at our church this past Sunday. Thanks to Talmadge Hill Community Church for opening my eyes to another pearl of N.T. Wright’s wisdom. I think this, however, remains my favorite N.T. Wright passage:
What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether. They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.