Dramatic Love

An original article for Love Your Neighbour by Dr. Myk Habets

28 August 2007

myk_habets.jpg Myk Habets, BMin, MTh (BCNZ) Dip Tert Tchg (AUT), PhD (Otago) lectures at Carey Baptist College in Systematic Theology, Hermeneutics and Ethics, and has lectured in theology and ethics at the University of Otago, BCNZ, and Pathways College. He has published articles on the Trinity, pneumatology, and soteriology.

Of himself he says: "Balance is important to me, balance in spiritual, physical and mental components of life. I am passionate...about everything. I love, I laugh, I cry, I enjoy. I have a positive personality and seek to get the most out of this God-given life that I can."



 

masks.jpgIf you were asked to tell the story of Scripture to a friend how would you do it? What characters, events, and ideas would appear and what would form the centre of the story? If we changed the metaphor from story to drama and asked the same questions then what or who drives the plot? Who are the main actors in the play? And what is our part in this great drama?


Various biblical scholars have suggested that reading the Bible as a multi-act play is a helpful way to identify the central plot and find ourselves in the story. We may think of the Father as the author of the drama, the Son the primary actor, and the Spirit the director. The main characters are God; who is responsible for the play, humanity; which is endowed with and condemned to freedom, and the mediator; Jesus Christ, who is the true character, and a model for the others. Israel, the nations, individual Christians, and the angels and demonic powers all take their places amidst the dramatic story. Central to the drama is the length to which God will go to show his love for his creatures.

This idea of the drama of Scripture is catching on with many theologians, pastors, and practitioners; and for good reason – it is compelling. For too long the Bible, doctrine, and mission have been considered by many to be stale, outdated, and at worst, irrelevant to contemporary culture. However, when read as a divine drama the picture changes dramatically. As the American theologian Michael Horton wrote:shakespeare_costume2.jpg

Of one thing we can be certain: God has given us the greatest show on earth, a drama full of intrigue that is not only interesting but actually brings us up onto the stage, writing us into the script as actors in the ongoing production. It gives us a role that contrasts sharply with those one-dimensional characters and shallow story lines of this present age. And because it is more than a play, ‘putting on Christ’ involves a lot more than trying on different costumes and masks. Let’s go into the Scriptures, then, to better discover its plot and our own in its light… [1]


When we do go into the Scriptures we find that which Horton promises – we find our place in the divine drama in which we participate in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father by the Spirit. We also find that the biblical drama requires some reflection, interpretation, and systematisation. In short, we begin to construct, in light of God’s revelation, a systematic theology capable of informing our ministry and mission in God’s world.

The drama of redemption recorded in Holy Scripture is a means by which God draws us to himself in order to send us into the world equipped to minister. This is, in simple terms, another way of describing that which Jesus said in Matthew 22.37,39: ‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind…and you shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ This is the essence of the performance of the drama. It is here that the words of Scripture are translated into contemporary idiom and a legitimate form of biblically dramatic improvisation is enacted on the world stage.

The Good News is that God is in control, he has a plan, it is being worked out, and within that plan there is a place for each of us. God’s drama involves his creation of a good cosmos, which, unfortunately, was ruined by recklessly free humans. But in his grace and love God sent his beloved Son to do for us that which we could not do for ourselves. He then rose from the dead and intercedes for us at the Father’s right, from which he sent the Holy Spirit and from which he will one day return in glory. In the meantime his life becomes the script for ours, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, they must deny themselves, and take up their cross and follow me’ (Matt 16.24).

costume.jpgAs performers or actors in God’s great drama our task is to improvise the biblical script in everyday life. Improvisation in the theatre is a practice though which actors seek to develop trust in themselves and one another in order that they may conduct unscripted dramas without fear. When Christians know the drama of Scripture so well that it becomes their story, when they are united to Christ by grace through faith that they literally become participants in his acts and being, and when the church realises its call to be the body of Christ in the world as it awaits the final return of the Lord Jesus in glory, it finally comes to terms with what it means to be ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, able to proclaim the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvellous light’ (1 Pt 2.9). In light of the past and in anticipation of the future the church is presently called to act, play, improvise under the leading of the Holy Spirit until Christ’s return.

This is part of what it means to love our neighbour today – to act towards others as God has acted towards us in Christ. We are equipped to be so thoroughly formed by God’s gracious interactions with humanity throughout time, as recorded in Scripture, that we are enabled, as a community of Spirit-filled believers, to be Christ to our neighbour. This means learning the art of improvisation by which we intuitively respond to the needs of others in a Christ-like way when, as a community of trust, we work together to proclaim in word and deed the Good News of the Kingdom of God. This Good News includes working for justice, respect, the alleviation of poverty, and the proclamation of the saving event of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

 


[1]        M.S. Horton, A Better Way: Rediscovering the Drama of Christ-Centered Worship (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 16.