I first heard about the three Cs of being human from R. Paul Stevens. From the creation accounts, he pointed out that humanity was defined by three “calls”.
First was communion, the call to relate to God. (Gen 2:7; 3:8)
Second was community, the call to relate to other human beings. (Gen 2:18)
Third was co-labour, the call to serve the rest of creation on God’s behalf. (Gen 1:26–28; 2:15)
[R. Paul Stevens, “Calling/Vocation”, in The Complete Book of Everyday Christianity, ed. by Robert Banks & R. Paul Stevens (Singapore: Graceworks, 2011), 98.]
I have always found these three dimensions of being human useful in my discipling and mentoring ministries. The three Cs provide a useful grid for a simple examen as we help people reflect on their lives. So:
How is your walk with God?
How is your walk with others?
How is your service in the world?
I was surprised to encounter the same three Cs in a recent reading in Revelation.
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.”
(Revelation 5:9b–10 NIV)
Here is a picture of the life to come. It is a future possible only because of the death of the Lamb. But His death makes possible the three Cs.
Communion — It purchased a new humanity for God. They will serve God. With sin and the effects of sin removed, communion between humankind and God is now restored.
Community — It purchased a community of people “from every tribe and language and people and nation”, an inclusive community marked by diversity and unity.
Co-labour — It purchased a community of people who would care for the new creation on God’s behalf. “[T]hey will reign on the earth” — that’s Genesis language. In the new creation a new humanity will be overseeing a new earth.
So from Genesis to Revelation, we see the same three dimensions of what it means to be human.
It got me thinking about how we do evangelism. There is growing concern that the young are less religious. I suggest that there may be waning interest in formal religion, but I believe that there is still the hunger for transcendence, belonging and purpose. They (and we) want to be in communities where we belong; where we are loved and can love. We want to know that our lives have purpose. And we want to know that this life is not all there is — a hunger for something or Someone more. These cries are everywhere in popular media — take, for example, the recent movie, Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Transcendence — spells, multiverses
Community — friends, three Spider–Men
Purpose — cure/stop the villains from the other universes
What is clear is that we can’t present the gospel transactionally — e.g., believe in the gospel so that you will escape hell and go to heaven when you die. People are crying out for love and meaning, and also for God even though they may not realise it. How will our communities show people love and acceptance? How will we show them that we are serious about finding meaning in our labours and serious about meeting the desperate needs of the day?
I understand the fear of many of my generation. We saw the power and damage of the social gospel; when some elements of the church stopped preaching the gospel and only focused on meeting other human needs. We never want to make that mistake again and that is absolutely correct. It will be an insult to the sacrifice of the Lamb. Humankind’s greatest problem is the sin that divides us from God and the only solution to that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the church must continue to seek His wisdom as to how we can share the gospel sensitively and humbly.
But we need to bear in mind that in inviting people to follow Christ, we are inviting them to become truly human. And to be truly human is to be in right relationship with God, with other human beings, and with serving God’s creation on His behalf. The church must also model these realities even as we preach the gospel.
Do we truly know the living God, a God that is wild and wonderful and dangerous and good, who is also our Father and our Friend? When people look at us will they see a people who truly know transcendence or have we reduced our encounter with God into our programmes and our songs?
Are we truly a welcoming and inclusive community that celebrates diversity and embraces people of different races, education levels, and social statuses? Do we go out of our way to welcome people with different kinds of needs and brokenness? Looking at our community life, would people have any clue that we are on our way to a Revelation 5:9b community?
And do we look like people who are servants of a God who cares? Who seeks to bring His redeeming presence and values into all of life? Are we a spiritual country club for the rich and powerful or are we working with God to reach out to “the last, the least and the lost?”
We are saying that if people accept the gospel and choose to follow Christ, they will become like us. If people look at us, will they want to become like us?
We live in a world where people are crying out for the three Cs. Do we hear? And if we do, what should we do? Who should we be?