Monday, February 27, 2012

"It is not so among you."

A little over a year ago I taught a course at Tabor College in Adelaide, Australia. At one point I brought up the topic of nationalism—the equating of Christian faith with national interests and values—and the class members laughed. They said that Australians would never put up a national flag in their churches or equate faith with politics, and that nationalism must be a distinctive American phenomenon.

Maybe they were right.

According to CNN, Newt Gingrich was the morning speaker yesterday at First Redeemer Church in Cumming, Georgia. A glimpse at the church's website shows a strong emphasis on both Christian faith and a particular brand of American patriotism. Mr. Gingrich was invited to the 10:30 service to "share his testimony" (as stated in the "Events" section of the church's website). According to the CNN report, however, the message carried a bit more than a testimony—it seemed to include a call to arms. You can read the report for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

The call for Christians to stand strong and firm is truly a biblical call and permeates the New Testament texts. It is not, however, a call to political power, but rather a call to stand firm in Jesus Christ, to hold to faith and confidence in him. It is a call to resist evil, religious slavery, and capitulation to forces—including those of the ruling empire—that might seek to destroy the faith. It is a call to suffer and, on occasion, die in the process of living faithfully to Jesus. But it isn't a call to political power or domination.

In Mark 10, when James and John reveal their misunderstanding about Jesus, and ask for positions of power when he embraces his full Messianic role, expels the Romans, and restores Israel to its glory, Jesus tells them that they don't even know what they're asking. They're completely off track. And when the other disciples get angry at the request of the two brothers (probably because they didn't think to ask first), Jesus makes this astounding statement:

“You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)

I'm not advocating for political passivity. But I believe we need to stop and think very carefully before we start rattling our religious sabers and organizing ourselves in such a way that we cease to be the people of God (who exist for the sake of the world) and devolve into a voting block that wields political power.

It is not so among us. Or, at least, it shouldn't be.

No comments: