The first truth which must be remembered is that for Christians there is no dissociation between the end and the means. It is a Greek ethical idea which has caused this division. The point from which we ought to start is that in the work of God the end and the means are identical. Thus when Jesus Christ is present the Kingdom has “come upon” us. This formula expresses very precisely the relation between the end and the means. Jesus Christ in his incarnation appears as God’s means, for the salvation of man and for the establishment of the Kingdom of God, but where Jesus Christ is, there also is this salvation and this Kingdom.
Only this situation is the exact opposite of that which we have described as being ours today: while our civilization absorbs the end into the means, in the action of God, the means only appear as the realized presence of the end. The end, this Kingdom, which will “come” at the end of time, is already present when the divine means (the only, unique, Mediator) is present. The whole action of God consists in realizing through his means the end, which is his work. Whether this be the Covenant, or the Law, or the Prophets, or the history or the wisdom of Israel, it is always the same act of God which manifests this unity of end and means. But it should be the same in all Christian life; for the Christian also the end and the means are united in the same way; thus he is irrevocably committed to fight with all his might against our present enslavement to means. Above all he must have a different attitude. It is not his primary task to think out plans, programs, methods of action and achievement. When Christians do this (and there is an epidemic of this behavior at the present time in the church) it is simply an imitation of the world, which is doomed to defeat. What we can do is of no importance unless we can offer it with a “good conscience toward God.”
In this situation it is not our instruments and our institutions which count, but ourselves, for it is ourselves who are God’s instruments; so far as the church and all its members are God’s “means” they ought to constitute that presence of the “end” which is characteristic of the Kingdom. Thus we never have to look for an objective outside ourselves, which we try to attain by very great effort (all efforts are accomplished in Jesus Christ), but we, within ourselves, have to carry the objective for which the world has been created by God. Whether we will or not, whether this be regarded as pride or not, Christians are not in the same situation as others with regard to the end: they have received this end in themselves by the grace of God. They have to represent before the world this unity between ends and means, authorized by Jesus Christ. For it is not man who establishes this end, as such, and achieves it; it is God who orders and arranges it and then brings it to pass. This completely reverses the attitude (so usual when one has finished a piece of work) of those who add, as a sort of precaution, that “of course it is for God to make it fruitful,” or “do what you ought to do and let what will happen,” or “man proposes and God disposes,” etc.: all this is merely popular human wisdom, which tries to bring God in somewhere. In this attitude as a whole there is, in reality, a dissociation between the work of man and the work of God, between the means and the end. Such a view of life is radically anti-Christian, when it incites men to carry on his affairs, and then adds “God” out of a sense of “decency” belonging to another age. In reality, the opposite is true: we see that God establishes his end and that it is this which is represented by our means. The direction is reversed, and this is a fact of extraordinary practical importance – it is not an intellectual game.
It means, for instance, that we do not have to strive and struggle in order that righteousness may reign upon the earth. We have to be “just” or “righteous” ourselves, bearers of righteousness. The Bible tells us that where there is a just man justice prevails. It is, of course, understood that here the word “just” means being “justified” by Christ, and that is why justice prevails where there is a just man. This is because the just man lives by the justice of Christ. This justice is present, for it is this which makes him just. Thus justice is not a goal to attain, or a balance to be acquired, but it is the gift of God, free and inexplicable, which exists in our life so that our means are not intended to “bring in” justice, but to “manifest” it. Likewise we have not to force ourselves, with great effort and intelligence, to bring peace upon the earth – we have ourselves to be peaceful, for where there are peacemakers, peace reigns. And it is always the same idea which prevails: this creation by God of good aims, like peace – a living creation in Jesus Christ – which can openly by translated through our means.
Thus the principle of the Christian ethic begins here. We must search the Scriptures for the way in which we ought to live, in order that the end, willed by God, should be present among men. The whole object of ethics is not to attain an end (and we know very well that for a genuine Christian ethic there is no such thing as a striving for holiness), but to manifest the gift which has been given us, the gift of grace and peace, of love and the Holy Spirit: that is, the very end pursued by God and miraculously present within us. Henceforth our human idea of means is absolutely overturned; its root of pride and of power has been cut away. The means is no longer called to “achieve” anything. It is delivered from its uncertainty about the way to follow, and the success to be expected. We can easily give up the obsession with means, from which our time is suffering, and, in the church, we must learn that it is not our possibilities which control our action, but it is God’s end, present within us.
-Jacques Ellul in The Presence of the Kingdom, p. 64-67.