The connections between the empire Jesus spoke out against and the empire we live under is uncanny.
Amongst the similarities is the requirement to comply with the empire in order to survive, even if it goes against what is good and right. In addition, the cluttered spiritual landscape where gods, philosophies and religions seem to all meld together rendering Christianity just another member of the pack, whose claims appear to be less than unique.
With this assessment, fresh insight is gained from 1 Corinthians 2:1-5:
“1When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.[a] 2For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”
So perhaps, in the midst of the mess we find ourselves in, our job isn’t to proselytize, but with announcement and demonstration of the Spirit’s power to establish kingdom outposts that become the catalysts for redemption.
God’s kingdom is about now. It’s about subverting the empire and dismantling it one piece at a time. Paul gives this superb example in Galatians 3:26-29:
“26You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Empire depends on hierarchal systems that rank people and ensure that those on top stay on top, while those on the bottom stay on the bottom. Paul pull’s the plug on this evil here by saying that in God’s kingdom, everyone is equal. So if everyone is indeed equal, where does that leave the empire? Dismantled.
Thus, to live in and advance the kingdom, everything about us is overhauled: worldview; politics; social habits; relationships – it’s all connected! And as we face into our empire, we carry the responsibility to call out evil for what it is, and live, move and operate by a different set of ideals…kingdom ideals.
“Trying to understand Jesus’ speech and action without knowing how Roman imperialism determined the condition of life in Galilee and Jerusalem would be like trying to understand martin Luther King without knowing how slavery, reconstruction, and segregation determined the lives of African Americans in the US…” (Richard Horsely)
“…[kingdom] is not about someplace else called heaven, nor about somebody at the distance called God. Rather, it is about this place here , in al its this-ness and placiness, and about the intimate and immediate Holy One who, at no distance from us at all, moves mysteriously to make creation true both to itself and to him. That, I take it, is the force of phrases like ‘the city of God’ and the ‘kingdom of God’. They say to me that the Bible is concerned with the perfecting of what God made, not with the trashing and the replacement of them by something alien. To be sure, city and kingdom are different images, with differing lights to shed on the mystery, but because they are both such marvelously earthly revelations of what God wants this world to become…” (Robert Capon)
“God’s kingdom or rule is the range of his effective will, where what he wants done is done. The person of God himself and the action of his will are the organizing principles of his kingdom, but everything that obeys those principles whether by nature or by choice, is within his kingdom.”
“The biblical doctrine of God’s wrath is rooted in the doctrine of God as the good, wise and loving creator, who hates – yes, hates, and hates implacably – anything that spoils, defaces, distorts or damages his beautiful creation, and in particular anything that does that to his image-bearing creatures. If God does not hate racial prejudice, he is neither good nor loving. If God is not wrathful at child abuse, he is neither good nor loving. If God is not utterly determined to root out from his creation, in an act of proper wrath and judgment, the arrogance that allows people to exploit, bomb, bully and enslave one another, he is neither loving, nor good, nor wise.”
“If we take our doctrines into our hearts where they belong, they can cause upheavals of emotion and sleepless nights.” (John Piper)
“Jesus wants to save us from making the good news about another world and not this one. Jesus wants to save us from preaching a Gospel that is only about individuals and not about the systems that enslave them. Jesus wants to save us from shrinking the Gospel down to a transaction about the removal of sin and not about every single particle of creation being reconciled to its maker. Jesus wants to save us from religiously sanctioned despair, the kind that doesn’t believe the world can be made better, the kind that either blatantly or subtly teaches people to just be quiet and behave and wait for something big to happen ‘someday’.”