31 March 2005

"Would that you..."

“Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!”

These words have been echoing in my ears for several days (pastors cannot hide from their own sermons). The weeping Christ in Luke 19 has triggered me to check my motivations. So often I dangle off of the cliff of hypocrisy and, frightfully, I am not that afraid.

You see I am fascinated by politics. I can hardly stop thinking about the possibility to change the world through public policy. We have all seen bad public policy, things that damage our “Christian Heritage” and it makes us leap up and grab our swords. The easy, logical solution is to act - write letters, knock on doors and elect politicians that will encourage an environment that is friendly to Jesus Christ. Here I am often drawn to expend tremendous amounts of anxious energy.

The crowds that shouted “Blessed be the king that comes in the name of the Lord!” would probably be with me this weekend waving signs for the political candidate that would, perceivably, solve our big problems. And, as we wave our signs and smile, we will all be clueless to what would make for peace in our city.

The Kingdom of God is the right side-up in our upside-down world.

The night before his death, Jesus left the disciples with the last thoughts of his final sermon:

----------
John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
----------

Will Christianity bring a new rule on planet earth? Should we expect that? How did Christ overcome the world exactly? The arresting quality of Jesus Christ’s ministry is that he overcame the power of sin and death through a humble death – not a glorious display of power.

----------
1Pet. 2:21-25 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
----------

The battle for the Glory of God is fierce and yet subtle. None of us hear all the clashing of metal or advancing cries of angel armies. I am not denying the existence of such heavenly conflict but it is true that we wake up, drink our coffee, read our papers and don’t see it. What we see are decisions. And so, the power of sin and death is not forceful – it is alluring. Sin calls us to self-protect, self-indulge... to self. Jesus Christ enters the battle with swords put away and a life that provides a provocative contrast to the ancestral “way” of our fathers. Christ’s life, death and resurrection reveal the beautiful character of God. Reading the Gospel accounts causes the soul to stand up and take notice – “something unique and strangely beautiful exists here and I am captivated.”

As the beauty of the gospel penetrates the human heart a radical change occurs. What was repulsive to our sin-laden soul is now enticing. We desire the Light that originates in our Spirit-led acts of giving. We desire union with God and the spiritual forces of darkness are disarmed. The heavy artillery of lust, greed, anger, control and hatred are reduced to peashooters. These vices resemble a bowl of generic cornflakes when compared with the lavish feast of knowing God and proclaiming His Glory. By setting forth plainly (2 Corinthians 4:1) the pleasing majesty of Christ, Satan is stripped of his power.

And so Christ overcomes the world. And so Christ will overcome the world through the church.

----------
Eph 3:10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

1Cor. 15:24-26 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
----------

I beginning to believe that a great deal of the destruction of every authority and power will come through a church that lives like its Savior. Look carefully at the text of Revelations 12:

----------
Rev. 12:9-11 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers* has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
----------

Satan is conquered here by the “blood of the Lamb” and the word of the saints testimony “for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Why do we scratch our head when the persecuted church thrives? As if it were a mystery! This is the battle plan! Christ overcame through His beautiful, all-attractive, selfless, unjust sacrifice. We can bring light and peace, but not as we pursue power, position and political force.

Could the following words be more plain?

----------
Luke 6:20-36 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic* either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
----------

American Christianity has a certain posture. We are personally offended that our “Christian Heritage” has been removed from our government. We see great tragedy when the 10 Commandments are removed from courtrooms and completely forget that the first church grew in an environment where faith in Christ was a capital offense. Today it grows most rapidly in similar environments (China and Africa).
Should we take notice at the removal of the 10 Commandments? Gay marriage? Abortion? Of course we should! But it should be with a broken-hearted desire for the world to see the Glory of God – not because some infringement on our “rights”.

Our rights have nothing to do with it! There is a sovereign God controlling every moment on earth and He has allowed our political climate (Psalm 115:3, Daniel 2:21). And why? -because God desires our good (Acts 20:35, Romans 8:28) and the presentation of His Glorious Son – which shines most brightly under unjust suffering.
When we take offense, posture and proclaim some lost value, we step away from the single most compelling weapon in this covert war.

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic* either.”

Political power will not bring the Kingdom of God. Christ rejected that path (Matthew 4:8 and Luke 4:5) and lamented over humanity’s preference for it in Luke 19. Could we have missed it in these last days?

Thankfully some have not...

"Unearned suffering is redemptive. Suffering, the nonviolent resister realizes, has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities."
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Being Christian exiles in American culture does not end our influence; it takes the swagger out of it. We don’t get cranky that our country has been taken away. We don’t whine about the triumphs of evil. We are not hardened with anger. We understand. This is not new. This was the way it was in the beginning –- Antioch, Corinth, Athens, Rome. The Empire was not just degenerate, it was deadly. For three explosive centuries Christians paid for their Christ-exalting joy with blood. Many still do. More will.”
-John Piper

“If we love God, suffering does not matter. Christ in us, his love, his Passion in us: that is what we care about. Pain does not cease to be pain, but we can be glad of it because it enables Christ to suffer in us and give glory to his Father by being greater, in our hearts, than suffering would ever be.”
-Thomas Merton

Now this may not result in a radical change of ideology, I will most definitely remain a conservative and I will probably be waving signs for Rich this weekend, but I will endeavor to step away from the idolatrous tendency to put my trust in politics.

The Gospel of Luke reminds us that the bringing of peace occurs when a Christ-follower takes on the cross of injustice and humbly blesses God and fellow man. It seems like I should already know that.

Be gentle with me, I’m growing.

Get you thinking? Check out these great articles:
Taking the Swagger Out Of Christian Cultural Influence - John Piper

Where Faith Thrives - NY Times, Nicolas Kristof

4 comments:

  1. thank you for the insight. It's refreshing to hear somone say the truths you said in this post.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'd enjoy hearing any comment you might have on my blog. You have great insight.

    ReplyDelete
  3. We faithful readers are patiently awaiting your next post!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Youre very insightful Sojourn. Me, being a christian, do believe the scriptual verses and insights you've added. I think i'm going to enjoy this blog. cant wait to see more from u!!
    god bless

    ReplyDelete