Sunday, January 16, 2011

"Resident Aliens"

The basis for the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount is not what works but rather the way God is. Cheek-turning is not advocated as what works (it usually does not), but advocated because this is the way God is--God is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. This is not a stratagem for getting what we want but the only manner of life available, now that, in Jesus, we have seen what God wants. We seek reconciliation with the neighbor, not because we feel so much better afterward, but because reconciliation is what God is doing in the world through Christ [italics added].

Hauerwas and Willimon - Resident Aliens

Greg Boyd: GOD’s Kingdom vs. The Kingdom of Man

This is essential to our understanding of God and our role in this world. Jesus refers to the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven more than 100 times. We must grasp the fact that His Kingdom is in direct opposition to the kingdoms of this world, no matter how "good" they may seem.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The marriage of belief and action

There is a "dual importance of right thinking and right living. Both are present in communities that manifest God's kingdom. Both matter. Yet it seems that many of us have inherited a version of Christianity in which sound thinking (orthodoxy) invariably comes first. Meaning, we often feel the need to completely iron out our theology before we enact our theology. We feel the pressure to resolve all our questions about a given issue - an issue like shared economics, for instance - and figure out exactly what we believe before we start behaving in new ways." - Economy of Love

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Downfall of the Kingdom of the Sword

I watched this movie yesterday. Powerful and perplexing stuff. The film has a tense feeling to it throughout, as do most films based on mad men. Downfall is based on the memoirs of Hitler's stenographer and personal secretary, who was with him throughout the war, even the last 12 days of his life spent in the Berlin bunker, which is what the movie focuses on.

As a history teacher, I have spent time teaching on Adolf Hitler, World War II and the Holocaust. They are all difficult topics to help high school age students (or anybody for that matter) understand. There are layers of complex questions, but one of the most common and also most difficult to answer is simply "why?" Why was Hitler compelled to heap such violence and hatred on a group of people? Why did the majority of German people simply go along with it? Why didn't the Allies do more, or even acknowledge the atrocities? I don't think any of us truly know, that is why it is so perplexing.

I was reading in Luke last Saturday where he says that the Holy Spirit will give us the words to say whenever we are in difficult situations and need to bear witness (Luke 12:12 and Mark 13:11). Right away I wondered what I would say (or better yet, what words the Holy Spirit would give me) in response to someone who asked "What about death and destruction by men, is that God's plan?" "What about Hitler, God's silence proves there is no God?"

What about Hitler? Especially after you read Romans 13 or the "unlimited submission to government" chapter of Paul's letter. Where do we draw the line? What exactly does it mean to be "subject" to the authorities? Does it mean to agree with the government? Not break laws? Pay our taxes? Look the other way when we see the government we are subject to act unjustly or violently? Does Romans 13 prohibit Christians from civil disobedience? Most of us would claim that if we were a German Christian in 1943 we would have opposed Hitler and the Nazis. Then why did very few Christians actually do this? According to Paul, all authority has been "instituted by God" (Romans 13:1). Is this the text that most of these believers sited in their inaction? What about in our own blind patriotism in this present age? Is the government always right, or does it perpetuate injustice and we site Romans 13 to justify our complacency?

John Howard Yoder probably gets it right in his book The Politics of Jesus when he writes:

"God is not said to create or . . . ordain the powers that be, but only to order them, to put them in order, sovereignly to tell them where they belong, what is their place . . . [it is not] by ordering this realm God specifically, morally approves of what a government does . . . God does not take the responsibility for the existence of the rebellious "powers that be" or for their shape or identity; they already are. What the text says is that God orders them, brings them into line, providentially and permissively lines them up with divine purpose."

The Kingdom of the Sword, which includes every government that was ever created by man (even "good" ones) will eventually recede and disappear. God has promised this, and we can have peace knowing that the Kingdom of the Cross, the backwards, upside down Kingdom of Jesus is the only Kingdom ordained and it is always advancing.