Tikkun Olam in Christian Tradition

I’m always delighted to find doctrinal statements that coincide with ancient Hebraic understanding. Today I read the following in The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. Notably, this represents Anglican, Evangelical, Methodist, and Brethren strains of thought.

We pray and work for the coming of God’s realm and reign to the world and rejoice in the promise of everlasting life that overcomes death and the forces of evil.*

For those who may not be familiar with it, tikkun olam is a rabbinic concept that contains the idea of our responsibility to partner with God in the healing or the repair of the world. We find this concept multiple places in Scripture, but contained clearly in the intersection of Ephesians 2:10 and 2 Peter 3:11-12.

Lest there be any doubt that this is the concept under discussion The Book of Discipline goes on to say:

The goodness of creation is fulfilled in human beings, who are called to covenant partnership with God.**

In Ephesians 2 (and a quick peek at chapter 1, verse 4) we find St. Paul declaring that the purpose for which we have been saved (by grace, through faith) and, indeed, chosen before the foundation of the world, is to walk out the good works that God created beforehand (referring to before the foundation of the world) for us to do.

even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will. . .For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 1:4-5;2:10 ESV)

If we flip over to St. Peter’s second letter we find that our faithfulness in living these lives of holiness and godliness actually hasten the coming day of the Lord, when He will forge a new heaven and new earth in which all will be as it should be–as it was created to be. “Therefore, beloved…be diligent…”

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. (2 Peter 3:10-14 ESV)

* page 44 of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church: 2004
** Ibid, page 46

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