Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Crown Him King?!

“And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest. And set up over his head his accusation written;

You cannot listen to the words of Jesus and NOT realize the implications of the gospel of the Kingdom – the king’s domain.  The term KINGDOM is pregnant with governmental imagery - monarchy - theocracy.  It is profoundly political as opposed to religious. Before His crucifixion Jesus was asked, "Are you a King?", to which He responded, "Thou sayest!"  Above his head, on the cross, there was placed a sign by he Romans that said, The King of the Jews.  Jesus spent much time publicly speaking about the kingdom, what it was, where it was, how it worked and He even taught His disciples to pray, "Thy kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in Heaven."  Jesus’ reign was to come into this time/space world of ours and his kingship - his government, his rule was soon perceived as an obvious threat, not only to the Romans but also to those Zionists who longed for a return to an earthly Jewish state and a restoration of their nationalistic theocratic identity! This desire was reflected in the question of His disciples at the end of His 40 day post-resurrection seminar on the subject, “Lord are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

Therefore when Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid;  and he entered into the Praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.  So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?”  Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.” Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.  Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!” So the chief priests answered, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, 

"We have no king but Caesar."

Jesus’ kingdom is political and has profound political implications in this world, To relegate the coming kingdom to some future dispensation, some other ethereal realm, some new age other dimension is to deny both the prayer and teachings of Jesus: "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!" Yet the problem for most of us is that we do not prayerfully consider the teachings of Jesus and their application to our lives, our values, our world, our society, our ethics, our morals, our actions, our business and our politics!

Although it has become somewhat Madison Avenue and trite, I like the idea of the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) acid test. We must consider, as subjects and ambassadors of the King, how would He have us, as citizens of heaven, to respond in this world to war - hunger - oppression - racism - injustice - poverty - militarism - child abuse - pornography and the flood of filth burying this nation? As in Bonhoeffer’s case we must consider, as ambassadors for Christ, our response to genocide, murder, and tyranny?  Are we called to just sit back and think noble heavenly thoughts?  Do we simply retire to our closets to pray and intercede?  Another important question is, Are we justified in feigning obedience to the state or the ungodly governments of men under the guise of "rendering unto Caesar' when those governments stand in opposition to the ways and will of God?  Are we justified, as God’s ambassadors  in remaining silent and powerless in the face of worldwide war, violence, injustice, exploitation, pestilence, famine, genocide and growing American militarism?

It is my contention that if there are no "political" consequences to the kingdom of God coming to earth (as it already is in heaven) then HIS will is obviously NOT being done on earth.  If there is no demonstration, no transformation and everything is business as usual: where and what is the evidence that the Kingdom has come? Are we to just sit passively by or go on our merry way while and continue to sell fire insurance while preaching American “apple pie in the sky by and by when we die"!  Our avoidance of the clash between cultures, values, and kingdoms has resulted in what Tony Campollo aptly calls “low impact Christianity.”  Instead of a creative counter culture we have become a subculture: somewhere beneath or subject subservient to the prevailing secular culture! Shame on us! Christianity is by nature and the example of our Lord and the early believers - counter cultural! Jesus Christ was no meek and mild namby pamby religionionist. He was a radical of the highest order.  He sanctioned neither Jewish elitism, Roman Imperialism, nor Greek democratic ideals (ecclesia). 

 No one, having listened to Jesus' public pronouncements could ignore his constant references to the primacy of the Kingdom of God. It was the kingdom of God which dominated His discourse and of which He spoke with such commanding authority.  If we are to be subjects of the King we must ask one question, "Lord, our commander and chief, what are your orders? What would you have me do in the face of evil? How shall I respond?  What is your will to be done, O Lord!"

I am convinced that we are not called to be passive observers, armchair quarterbacks or cowardly lions but more than conquerors through Christ.  In these dark times let us cease praying for revival, for deeper revelations, for ease, or for continued spiritual blessings, rapturous revelations or Holy Ghost goosebumps. Let us forget our preoccupation with prosperity, freedom and comfort. Let us ask God to grant us what is truly lacking and required in these times - courage!  Courage to march to the beat of a different drum!  Courage to stand and declare the will of God and to live out kingdom values in the midst of a self absorbed narcissistic culture.

The question for us to consider is not IF Jesus is ruling over His kingdom, but when and where does He purpose to demonstrate His authority and dominion in the earth.  The biggest unasked question is  HOW  -by what means - in what way - should we in our official capacity as ambassadors for Christ respond to our Lords call to be his disciples in the midst of this messed up world.  How can we demonstrate the primacy of faith and the love of God to mankind?  How do we effectively oppose evil without ourselves utilizing tactics which make us like that which we hate?   Lord what would you have us do?

As politically incorrect as it may sound, we must accept that Christianity is not ultimately about outcomes or even about the transformation of society. The goal is not utopia or heaven on earth, but a heavenly people in the earth who radiate and reflect the life and order of heaven!  Ultimately it is not about WHAT we do or how we achieve His objectives but WHY we do it!   It is about motives more than means or methods or results . It is about demonstrating the ultimacy of the power of the love of God.  Hence, we must realize that good ends resulting from motives other than love are of dubious eternal consequence.  To paraphrase Mother Theresa, "Large deeds with little love are of little consequence but small deeds done with great love can change the world." Love is the pure hi-test gas which powers the engine of kingdom advance and which leaves behind no residual pollution.

We must understand what the Kingdom of God is all about - what it means for us to be citizens of heaven and where our allegiance truly is!  When there is conflict between the teachings of Christ (assuming we really are interested and diligent in trying to understand what our Lord requires) AND our usual and customary practices, it is clear what we must do!  As with Bonhoeffer, Dr. King, Gandhi or even Patrick Henry, and countless other historical figures, we may find ourselves moved to stand against the tide and for truth; even if it costs us our liberty, our comfort and/or our lives.  Whether the issue  is abortion, corruption, caring for the poor and destitute, sexual slavery, opposition to war or injustice; the only appropriate question for us to ask is, “Lord what would YOU have us do!?!”  Our response is not some religious obligation but an expression of our heart felt submission to His Lordship.  It is a manifestation - an visible evidence of the love which operates within and through us and our desire to please Him!  This heavenly love compels us to act.  Simply professing that we have faith or confessing that we are Christians or “believers” is not sufficient.  Faith without works is dead; meaning that mere “belief” is impotent - it is neither life giving nor life enhancing!  After all, the even “devils believe and tremble.” We are to show our trust in the Lord, to demonstrate our submission to Him and His reign over us, with and by our acts of obedience.  Jesus says, “If you love me you will do what I say!” Really?! Can it possibly be that simple?

We American can do self-styled believers are, for the most part, impotent because we do not practice what we preach or, at least what we profess to believe.  We are all so smug secure and comfortable in our carefully crafted little theological houses that require so little of us.  The point is, as Morpheus says to Neo in The Matrix:

“There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path!” 
We have conveniently chosen to delegate to a secular worldly American governmental system such responsibilities as caring for the poor, the widow and the orphan.  In abdicating our God given opportunities for loving service, we have made the government of God subservient to or beneath the governments of men.  Despite the saying on our money, it is not In God We Trust but in isms - whether it is Social-ism, Capital-ism, Consumer-ism, American-ism, Liberal-ism, Conservatism, Libertarian-ism, Fascism, Evangelical-ism, Protestant-ism, Catholic-ism or any one of a host of institutional-isms!  These man centered intellectual systems are powerless to transform . I heard a christian brother once remark that: If the people of God would get right with God then all them isms would be wasms!”  He was right!
In saying these things I find myself being convicted.  I too talk a good game but yet I am haunted by the thought that if I were struck deaf, dumb and blogless, I wonder if anyone would recognize that I am a follower of Jesus and that I am subject to a higher government – a higher calling – and a higher power and a higher way - by simply observing how I/we live?  After all, Jesus did NOT say “By their rhetoric, their doctrine, pious platitudes, labels, theology, or their blogs ye shall know them.” Unfortunately I have come to realize that cyber space chatter is not cheap - it's virtually worthless. I have become painfully aware that much of the time my words speak more elegantly than my life. Lord forgive!?

So here is my prayer.

“Oh God, bring gripping conviction on our hearts and cause us to throw ourselves at your feet in repentance and absolute surrender. Come and reign over and in us for we know there is no hope in following or in allegiance to Caesar.” Amen