~ SURELY BY NOW GOD has had enough of our corrupt governments and perverse churches and fallen ways? Isn’t a revolution in order?
Fire them all, burn it down, start over! We’ll do better! May the last aristocrat be strangled with the entrails of the last priest, etc., and so on.
Utopia Now!.. Somehow..
Such has been the modern spirit since the 1700s, imagining utopia, by our own hands, and according to our own wisdom. This blood-dimmed tide is still claiming victims in many places on earth even as you read this.
A softer and stupider version of this revolution has taken hold in our schools, and many parts of our overgrown government, not to mention in the leadership of many churches and sects. The revolution seems like a good idea, until (1) you actually see what it entails, and (2) your remember that it’s the same bent and failing human nature out of which perfection and utopia will come, (3) “They”, the horrible ones with power, are the same as most of us, if we had their power & opportunities. Salvation comes not via good intentions.
What then? Shall we be enamoured of the old evils, or favour new ones?
First Things.. First
The teaching of Jesus as worked out in the early Church set’s up some distinctives. Unlike the zealots of Israel, the Kingdom of Jesus comes by His blood, not the blood of cadres and their victims. We cannot abandon God and His love, in an impatient practical atheism.
St. Paul makes it even clearer. We must remember: the kings he’s talking about are the divine Caesars. At the time of the writing of his Letter to the Roman Christians, about AD 57-58, it’s one Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus. Yup, THAT Nero.
His Mommy Dearest had helpfully prepared the way for her darling Nero by murdering the previous Emperor, Claudius, in October of AD 54, just two or three years before Paul wrote his Letter to the Church in Rome. Under this same Nero would come the first great persecution of the Church, including the executions of Saints Peter and Paul in Rome. Pretty grim.
Yet– surely Paul could see the injustices, the persecuting ways, the false divinity of such so-called sons of the gods, and Emperors over the earth? Of course he could. But he also knew that Jesus the divine Son did not win that kind of victory over the world, the flesh and the devil. “My Kingdom is not of this world”, says King Jesus to Pontius Pilate.
Get Yer Reading Glasses
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.
For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
Whatever the law may be, do better. Whatever situation you are in, honour the Lord, and see in the powers that be– however imperfect– signs of the overarching rule of heaven. Why? Paul writes:
“Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Behold a Kingdom in the world, but not OF this world– not sharing it’s dreams, devices & desires, its fallen and failing ways. Not of one race or only for men or for women, the reborn sons and daughters of the Risen King Jesus are not revolters, burners, subverters, utopians, impatient for perfection now, on their terms.
Here we have no abiding city; here our hearts are not set forever. We are pilgrims, travelling on our way home, yet leaving all things and people better than we found them: redeemed, blessed, brought to God.
How Does This Work?
In the very early Christian Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus Ch. 5 (c. AD 130), we read the following of how this works out, practically. We read:
“For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity.
The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners.
As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed.
They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified.
They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.”
Sounds Like Conversion
The world is imperfect, and so am I, and so are you. Therefore, I’m not interested in any revolution, powered by pride, envy and vengeance, built out of the house of cards that is fallen human wisdom. Our Kingdom is not of this world, yet by truly seeking it, we transform lives and societies, and the world around us– or we are supposed to do so.
Our way is His way, if we are His and He is ours. It requires effort, love, repentance, sacrifice, and a painful transformation by grace. Groan: sounds a bit too much like work, doesn’t it?
“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” [St. Matthew, 5]
Burn it all down? Leave? Slay all the sinners? Seek that greener crass in some imagined perfection just over there? Sounds like the exact opposite of taking up our respective crosses, and following Him, loving & converting souls, and redeeming all the things by His grace, and in His name.