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  • Writer's picturePaul Cho

Seeing the Kingdom of God through the City of Lights, Paris

What does the theology of integrating faith and work involve? I recently attended a Christian event where the idea of marketplace ministry was discussed. The leaders defined this mostly as a platform for evangelism, typically narrowed down to just being kind and spreading the message of Jesus Christ to marketplace workers. While evangelism and discipleship are crucial parts of any ministry, including the marketplace, the theology of integrating faith and work extends beyond these elements. So, what exactly does this theology involve?

When Jesus Christ came into our world, he began the work of bringing God's kingdom. In Matthew 4:17, Jesus started this work by announcing, "...Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." So, how did Jesus go about establishing the kingdom of God?

Matthew 4:23 states, "And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people." This passage highlights that kingdom work involves four things: going, teaching, proclaiming, and healing. First, Jesus went to the people. As he journeyed, he taught about the kingdom of God, which represents the spiritual work of discipleship. He also proclaimed the kingdom of God, symbolizing the spiritual work of evangelism. Additionally, Jesus healed the people, signifying the physical work of restoration.

Through his healing work, Jesus demonstrated that the kingdom's work encompasses more than spiritual discipleship and evangelism. It also includes physical tasks that bring healing, renewal, and restoration to all aspects of God's creation.

In the Sermon on the Mount, as documented in Matthew 5, Jesus speaks to his followers. He likens them to the "salt" of the earth (verse 13) and the "light" of the world (verse 14). In verse 16, Jesus states, "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Here, Jesus tells us to engage in good works, leading others to recognize and honor God. This raises the question: What is the good work God wants us to do? Does it merely involve telling our colleagues about Jesus Christ?

In Genesis 1, we observe God shaping the world through the act of creation. God creates the world by countering darkness with light, chaos with order, and formlessness with beauty. The world that God has created promotes life enrichment and human flourishing, where complete peace, or "shalom," exists in the presence of the Lord. After completing His creation, God declares in Genesis 1:31, "It was very good.”

In the creation story, God's good work is centered around bringing shalom and flourishing life to the world, where God will be honored and glorified. The goodness of creation was blemished when sin entered the world. However, Jesus began the process of restoring and renewing His creation, the work of the kingdom. Therefore, Jesus' physical healing of people continues the good work of bringing shalom that God initiated in His creation. Just as God subdued chaos and formlessness by breathing life into creation, Jesus now imparts life through physical healing. This is the good work that Jesus encourages us to participate in - the work that brings renewal and shalom to God’s creation, alongside the spiritual works of evangelism and discipleship.

This implies that contributions to God's work go beyond evangelism and discipleship. They can also include medical work that promotes healing, judicial work that fosters social reforms, arts that highlight the beauty of God’s creation, economic development that alleviates poverty, and technological advancements that improve the environment. All these aspects are integral to God’s creation and the work of Jesus' kingdom. In essence, any work that enriches people's lives, promotes human flourishing, and brings shalom to the world is part of God's work in creation and Jesus’ kingdom work of renewing all things in creation. In other words, our work holds not just instrumental value, such as making money and donating to charities, but also intrinsic value. Our work contributes to God's ongoing work of creation and restoration.

A few months ago, my wife and I had the chance to visit Paris, France. The city's stunning gardens and architecture captivated us. Known as the city of lights and love, Paris seemed like the world's most enchanting garden city. This experience sparked a profound realization. If Paris was this beautiful, the city of God, depicted as God's garden-city in Revelation, must be infinitely more so. Visiting Paris heightened my anticipation for the day when God's garden-city will manifest in our world. This experience demonstrated that even the work of city planning can point to the coming of God's kingdom. It profoundly inspired me to eagerly await God's kingdom and to live mindfully in a world often overshadowed by evil.

The theology of integrating faith and work suggests that God's work in the world includes more than just spiritual elements, such as evangelism and discipleship. It also covers physical activities that participate in God’s redemptive work of healing, renewal, and restoration of His creation. This theology encourages us to view all of our work as God's work, bringing shalom to the world and contributing to Jesus' kingdom work of renewing and restoring all things in God's creation.

This perspective encourages us to view all aspects of our lives, from sharing the Gospel to gardening, as acts of worship and service to God's kingdom. God seeks our acknowledgment of His presence in every action, whether it's spiritually significant work such as evangelism and discipleship, or routine tasks like mopping the floor, feeding the dog, or brokering an investment deal. As stated by Paul in 1 Cor. 10:31, God calls us to do everything "to the Glory of God.”

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