Monday, December 11, 2006

TICFITB #20 -- Changing the World

This will be the last TICFITB. I know. It's sad to see them go. But I decided to just stop at 20. There will be a new series coming up sometime around Christmas, so stay tuned!

There is a certain concept in Christianity that was prevalent when Jesus taught, and it has consistently reared its head for the past two thousand years.

Many Christians see the message of Christ, one of peace, hope, love, grace, and then compare it to the world we live in. They are vastly different. They picture a world where these things are realized for the masses, where wars will end as forgiveness spreads, where hunger ceases as our greed gives way to love, where prejudice dissipates in the light of an understanding that we are all equal in the sight of our Creator. They see that the Gospel can change society and ultimately the whole world.

These are all lofty goals. But the problem is ... I cannot seem to find these goals in the New Testament.

The Gospel is not a worldly thing. One of the main things that makes the Gospel different from every other religion is that it Christ has not promised to change the world while in this state. The redemption of this world will only happen when it is consumed in flames, dies, and is reborn again as a new heaven and a new earth. We are never promised that the world will change before that event. In fact, if we read Revelation and other verses, we are promised that the world will fall deeper into sin.

In contrast, the Church will become more and more pure as the Bride of Christ. As apocalyptic as Revelation can be, it concludes with a pure Bride prepared for her Husband.

As Christ walked the earth, this idea that the Gospel should change the world exhibited itself in the Jewish desire for an earthly king. The people wanted Jesus to be their idea of a promised Messiah, one that would lead an army and throw off the shackles of their Roman oppressors. Jesus did not play this game, however, and actually honored the Roman authority and taught others to do the same.

This was because He knew that His presence on this earth was not to change a worldly government. It was not to feed all the hungry people. It was not to heal every disease. It was not to make everyone play nice and live in some sort of earthly Utopian harmony. Christ came to be the example of someone who lived for another Kingdom, died so others could live and rose in power to live at the right hand of His Father. His good confession before Pilate?

"My Kingdom is not of this world."

Religion attempts to make the Kingdom of this world. It fails and will always fail, but that doesn't stop many from falling for the easy deception that has lasted for thousands of years.

In our modern time, this happens in a number of different ways. Some fight to be part of the moral majority or to keep scripture on public monuments or to raise taxes and force the redistribution of wealth or stop wars because the innocent die or a host of other activities we see as "Christian" but are ultimately attempts at making this world look like the next.

It will never work. Christ promised that there would be wars and rumors of wars and that the world would hate us and that there would be grand deceptions. The Apostles wrote in the New Testament of many falling away and refusing to get married or eating certain foods.

The problem is that the New Testament does make certain things very clear. In loving those around us, we are supposed to feed the poor, protect the oppressed, father the orphan and provide for the widow. These are very real exhibitions of Christ in us. But they are not done to change the world and make it a better place. They are done to express Christ and to gain us reward in Heaven. We give sacrificially to others because Christ did that to us. It's called grace. And as we fulfill that calling, we are rewarded in the eternal Kingdom we actually belong to.

Indian religions attempt to rid the world of suffering. Jesus said, "the poor you will have with you always." The Chinese philosophies attempt to create perpetual harmony on the earth. Jesus said, "there will be wars and rumors of wars." Religious American Christians attempt to become the moral majority in a secular nation and society when Christ said the world would hate us and persecute us.

You know why the world doesn't really persecute most American Christians? We look more like the world than we do like Christ. If we gave grace and mercy and healed the sick and fed the hungry and took care of the weak among us, if we made this a priority instead of political battles and building the next state of the art facility, we would see persecution because of our Christ-like love. I guarantee it. It sounds crazy, but it is true. Our rightousness would bring out the depravity of this world. The Light exposes things.

To be honest, one of the most recent trends among Christians to change this world is the rise of socialism among the younger generation. This is especially problematic and disturbing to me. To understand the ideas behind socialism is to understand communism. And to understand communism is to understand a philosophy that proposes the difference between bad and good is the way people are raised, not the inherent sinful nature that all possess. To believe in socialism is to believe that people are basically good and that, given the right circumstances, would grow up to be really nice people if we could just make them wear school uniforms, all get the same grades, make sure no one ever feels like a failure, meet all of their needs and most of their wants, and build up their self-esteem. Of course, this removes the depravity of man which removes sin and a need for a savior, since telling someone they need a savior would suggest something might be wrong.

I'll mention here, too, the conflicting evidence that communists/socialists (what I call neo-communists) also believe that the rich are evil (look at the bad guys in most movies ... they just want to tear down that nice apartment complex to build their condos!) and need to be punished with more taxes. If people are basically good and they just need to be put in the right physical environment, why is there so much white-collar crime? Why the concept that the rich are evil?

To be a neo-communist, you must also believe that the government will take care of people better than they can themselves, which is just another religious belief since it is not based on any historical evidence of fact and must be taken by faith, however misled it might be.

Seeing Christians delve so strongly into the idea of forced redistribution of wealth, which is neo-communism, and hear them proudly base it on their "Christian" beliefs and that it will make a better world is actually disturbing to me. Maybe they're just ignorant, but deception can be a powerful thing.

God will have a people who understand that their Kingdom is not of this world, that their citizenship is in Heaven, that they are, in effect, dead and their true lives are hidden safely within Christ at the right hand of God. That they give and love because there is another world, that this world is hopelessly lost, and itself even longs for redemption. All creation groans for it. It wants to be consumed in fire and reborn anew.

So should we.




At 10:58 AM , Blogger Derek said...

Awesome series. It should be made into a book (or at least a large section of a book).

I'm somewhat torn on this one. Maybe this is part of the conventional church side of me that won't die, but Jesus did weep for Jerusalem. I don't think that we should fool ourselves and believe that we can save everyone - the state of the world portrayed in Revelation makes that clear. But having a heart to reach every tribe, every tongue, and every nation is clearly Biblical.

Clearly, I think the key is to follow the Spirit's leading, and do the work that He has called us to do. We don't need to worry so much about being terribly busy. If God wants to redeem the entire world through us, He can. But only if we are obedient, and only if we are following His call. And perhaps that is yet another reason why we need grace - the task that God originally had designed Israel for, and that falls onto us, requires an obedience so great that we are completely unable do it.

At 4:59 PM , Blogger Britt Mooney said...

Good balance, there, Derek. You defined it well. Christ wept (and died) for Jerusalem, but He also knew that despite His own self-sacrifice, the way would be found by only a few. He knew that some would hear and some would not, "to those with ears to hear ..." The way is always narrow. Just because over 90% of Americans claim to be Christians cannot change that fact.

We are to give of ourselves in hope that some will be granted repentance, as Paul describes in Romans. We give ourselves for all but realize that only a few will truly repent and believe. The seed falls on all kinds of ground, but only one kind of ground leads to life.

Like you said, the great comission is only met when led and guided by the One who comissioned it. That takes the Spirit inside of us following the Father through the Son. We are only the vessel sharing in the work and then the glory.

More to my point, though, is when we try to have this temporary world reflect eternal truths it is not capable of reflecting ... yet. Only the Church is capable of that expression because we are of another world.



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