It is important to have a theology of mixture. I’m not saying a mixed-up theology. To have a theology of mixture in no way diminishes God. God is no mixture! He is present and working in the mixture. He is sovereign over the mixture. He has design for the mixture. The time of mixture will one day be over. But until then there will be mixture. We can survive and even thrive in the mixture and ambiguity of these days.
Here’s an example of mixture. When I was very young in the faith, I went to a “faith healing” service. One of the attendees felt God heal the horrible pain in his back. He went up to the front to testify. The faith healer had him bend down and touch his toes and then reach to the sky. Both of these things had been impossible to do without excruciating pain. But now he could! He got so excited he started leaping and praising God (cf. Acts 3:8). As he was leaping, he landed on his ankle the wrong way and then limped off the stage all the way back to his seat!
We all experience mixture individually, relationally, institutionally, and in our churches. There are moments or seasons of extraordinary blessing followed by or intermingled with ongoing trouble, heartache, sin, and disappointment.
What has helped me over the years is to grow in my understanding of the “already but not yet” of the Kingdom of God. This is an essential element of a theology of mixture. Jesus’s atoning death won for us every blessing imaginable. Of course, the greatest blessing is a restored relationship with our God who alone is our supreme Treasure. This never changes, though our personal experience of God’s kindness and nearness may fluctuate. But he also purchased a redeemed body. Though now “wasting away” it will one day be raised to enjoy the perfect life of the new heavens and the new earth.
But until that happens, there is mixture. The parables of the Kingdom in Matthew 13 reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom. I have been especially struck by the parable of the wheat and the tares. Through the parables Jesus shines his light on things that were not yet clear. The expectation of the Jews was that when the Messiah was revealed the new age would cataclysmically begin. Suffering and wars and sickness and oppression would suddenly end. But Jesus makes clear in his teaching that there would be two comings of the Messiah: the first to accomplish our redemption from sin, and the second to bring our redemption to its everlasting and ever-increasing climax. We live between these two comings. To be sure, the age to come and its blessings are breaking into this present evil age, but suffering and disappointment continue.
You are so faithfully standing with Bethlehem College & Seminary through your prayers, financial support, and advocacy in a myriad of ways. Each one of you is doing so in the midst of your own unique intermingling of pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow, sickness and health. We cannot thank you enough for your faithfulness, your prayers, your generosity, and your patience. Bethlehem College & Seminary is far from perfect, but it’s a delight to see this school continue to grow and mature even in (and through!) a pandemic and all the challenges in which we find ourselves.
Together with you in the Already but Not Yet of the Kingdom,
Pastor Tom Steller
Associate Professor of Biblical and Global Studies
Global Partner, Bethlehem Baptist Church
Director of Theological Education—Cameroon, Training Leaders International
- Pray for Bethlehem’s extension campuses that are in the process of being established in Rochester, Memphis, Hawaii, and Cameroon.
- Pray for staff, faculty, and students, that each of us will see God more clearly and treasure him more deeply amidst the mixture and ambiguity of this unusual season.