This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations or presbytery I serve.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Resistance Is Futile.

The problem with “resistance” as an approach, for all its echoes of ordinary people courageously fighting the Nazis in 1940’s Europe, is that it lets the agenda be set by what we are resisting.  It assumes that everything is basically fine except for this malignant aberration we have to resist.  It also is a basically negative idea, saying only what we don’t want, but nothing about what kind of a world we would like to see.  Resistance is too vague; people can claim to be part of a “resistance,” when all they are resisting are matters of style and personality, not policy.
The New Testament knows nothing of resistance.  Jesus even says, in his Sermon on the Mount, that we should not resist evil.  Commentators will point out that the verb refers to violent resistance, allowing for the possibility of non-violent resistance.  But the Lord is less about any kind of resistance than he is about actually neutralizing and overthrowing evil.  He goes exponentially farther than mere resistance or even revolution; he preaches and institutes the apocalyptic emergence of a totally different kind of order. 
The New Testament is perhaps the most thoroughly anti-imperialist document in all of ancient literature.  But it’s agenda is not about resisting Caesar and his regime so much as seeing it replaced by something completely different: the Kingdom of God.  
The Kingdom of God is not just a “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” political regime change.  It turns the whole system inside out and upside down.  And it is not just political and economic (and it most certainly is political and economic, make no mistake); it begins in human souls.  The Kingdom of God is an anti-empire that starts with changed ways of thinking and acting, and emerges as a new way of living together in a beloved community. 
Jesus’ announcement of the Kingdom of God happens directly following his rejection of the three temptations offered to him by Satan.  However, we choose to view Satan, he represents (or works through) the human ego, as seen by the three things he hangs in front of Jesus.  He is asked to manifest bread, create a popular spectacle, and grab earthly authority.  I boil these down to money, fame, and power.  These are three things our egocentricity is always trying to get us to embrace, usually with great success.  Jesus is saying that the Kingdom of God is not realized in us or among us until we have rejected these three temptations.
This is why the Kingdom of God is the anti-empire.  Empires are based on the enthusiastic and aggressive pursuit of those three goals by individuals and by societies.  And that is true for empires and social orders of the “right” and of the “left.”  Jesus accepts no such choice, and offers a completely different alternative.  He proposes a social-economic order based on the rejection of money, fame, and power as values.  In other words, he values poverty of spirit, humility, and gentleness, in addition to the other values he talks about at length in his teachings, especially in the Sermon on the Mount.
This order, which he calls the Kingdom of God, cannot be imposed by law from “above.”  It can only be built from below by people who know God’s grace and live by God’s Spirit and Jesus’ teachings and example.
It is important to remember that this is not some new thing Jesus invents.  He is talking about the Kingdom of God as the true and original order of the universe and human life, something deeply within us and embedded in creation itself, which we have to discover and live into by trusting in God.  The Kingdom is already here; it is we who are living in ignorance of this truth and need to be awakened to it.
The church is supposed to be the manifestation of this Kingdom.  We see glimpses of it in the communal nature of churches in Acts.  Yet our call to trust in the good news of the Kingdom is not to some romanticized past, but to the sure hope of God’s ultimate resolution in the future.  
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