When the church forgets or refuses to admit that is a “purely contingent historical figure,” a merely “strategic identification” in the drama of the reconstitution of a new people of God in which all humanity becomes “all Israel,” it is in danger of losing its true vocation and instrumentality (pure use) toward the fulfillment of the cosmic drama, God’s love story with all creation. It loses its character of necessary “auto-suppression” relative to the vision of the reign of God. It forgets that it ultimately has identity only in the universal, eschatological economy of salvation when God will be all in all. When the church seeks to maintain an absolute church-world distinction, despite the telos of the universal-eschatological-messianic drama, it is in danger of becoming a mere obscurantist haven for the (self)righteous.This is not to say that the church as seeking to establish itself as a messianic community cannot have some institutional form. But in its self-conscious preoccupation with its own reality and identity, it walks a never-ending tightrope. In the very gesture of separation founded on messianic love and fidelity, there must be a corresponding embrace of all that is lost, all that is other. And its still seems more appropriate to try to stay on the tightrope than to seek to remain on the apparently firm ground of the alternatives, whether basking in the security of mystical individualist subjectivity, or retreating into identitarian communal havens, or embracing the coercive universalism of Christendom or the state, or acquiescing to the niceties and comforts of liberalism and global capitalism, or being content with reality reduced to the merely historical-material.
– Gordon Zerbe, On the Exigency of a Messianic Ecclesia