Monday, October 01, 2012

Changing the Map

 When you look at a map of the world, what do you see? 

The political borders drawn by rulers and governments, by wars and treaties? The physical barriers of rivers and mountains, deserts and oceans? Or the histories and diversity of ethnicities and cultures represented by the names of nations?

The global map is a visual record of all these things today, but a thousand years ago, we would have seen it differently. We would have seen not only the world’s physical terrain, but its spiritual geography.

A medieval mappa mundi (Latin for “map of the world”) typically depicted the three continents of the known world, Europe, Africa and Asia, arranged around a central point: the city of Jerusalem. This placement of what, to the medieval mind, was considered the City of God, was symbolic of God’s rightful centrality in the world, and in each person’s life.

Ebstorfer Mappa Mundi, c. 1234

When medieval Europeans looked at maps, they were reminded that this is our Father’s world, and while He plans to one day establish His physical Kingdom here, His spiritual Kingdom is already present.

In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis compares the Christian to an exile living in enemy territory. He writes of God’s “invasion” of earth through the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and through our own lives when we allow Him to live in us, as a reclaiming of what is already God’s.

The God Who created the world wants it back, and He wants to use us to change the map, to reconcile the earth to Himself. He wants to use us, His followers, to bring His Kingdom to those who have never heard His name, to bring hope and healing to a dying world.

Looking at a map of the world and thinking of the great size, the sheer numbers of people yet to be helped, yet to be reached with the Gospel, our task can seem daunting. Yet when we read the words of Jesus to His disciples in Acts 1:8, we notice that He tells them to begin their ministry in Jerusalem, in their own community.

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

When we let God use us to reach our world, whether by serving in our church; volunteering for a local charity; praying and caring for a sick neighbor; giving to missions; or even intentionally forming a new, Christ-centered friendship, we are helping reclaim the world. We are advancing God’s Kingdom on earth.

We are changing the map.