A Wake-Up Call – Part 2

The intent of my previous post is not to say that the people of God should be apolitical.  However, we must reject the Constantinian tendency to seek power and influence for the church through political involvement.

As believers our involvement in the public arena at any level, whether simply voting or seeking public office, is always from the position of service not dominion.  Our participation should bring light, not division.  This can only be accomplished if we truly serve with humility, representing Christ’s nature.

We lost our focus on the kingdom and misrepresented our priorities by focusing on spiritual and cultural warfare.  We failed to recognize the power of the kingdom that is ours and instead sought after influence through politics.  Christ’s earthly reign will not be realized through Christian influence in the American political realm.

The Uniquely Spiritual Nature of the Church

We cannot neglect the truly spiritual nature of the church.  Where is the church’s testimony of hope, generosity, unity, inclusion, and love for our neighbor?

We must rediscover our story, recover our witness, and restructure our lives and communities to reflect the gospel of the kingdom.  It is up to the people of God to demonstrate our first allegiance to His kingdom and an evident hope in our reigning King.

How do we prophesy the kingdom to our nation and neighbors in word and deed?  How do we prophesy true hope?  We must first awaken ourselves and repent for our isolation, for our neglect, and for our ambition.  We must live the gospel of the kingdom, not a gospel of law, moralism, and religion.

Should we intercede? Yes, but we should no longer fast and pray for the world to be transformed to our likeness. We should pray until our hearts are changed. We should pray for wisdom and strategy to subvert darkness and evil in a manner that testifies of the goodness and compassion of God and results in His redemptive purposes.

When we enter into the public arena, it must be with humility, knowing that we overcome evil with good – with love, not power – demonstrating our faith through attention to the poor and becoming examples of the generosity that characterizes life in the kingdom.

Rather than “cleaning the outside of the cup” the people of God must abide in Christ’s transforming power.  Transformation is a work of the Spirit resulting in transformation of hearts rather than imposing regulation of behavior.  We must lean into this reality for personal transformation, for true transformation of the church, and ultimately for transformation within society.

In order for the church to engage with society redemptively, we must be vitally connected to Christ.  Love for others is an overflow of God’s love in the believers’ hearts.  As we are transformed by the indwelling Spirit, we reach out as the hands and feet of Jesus to embrace and include others.

Our lives are to be poured out.  We are the sent ones.  We are to incarnate healing and hope.  We are to be ministers of reconciliation, bringing shalom into the brokenness of the world.  This is what it means to be salt and light.  This is our true spiritual nature.

Why isn’t this our reputation?  If this isn’t what we’re about, it is time to wake up and take a look at what we are doing.

When the people of our country look to the church for hope rather than to a politician, we will know that we are becoming the community of the kingdom that we were always intended to be.

In the meantime, let us not grieve if a political election did not go the way we wanted.  Let us grieve that the church has so poorly represented the gospel of the kingdom, the beauty of loving community, and the true nature and hope of our Lord.

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27 thoughts on “A Wake-Up Call – Part 2

  1. Oh, yeah. I think I was just going to *applaud*. Great post, grace. This flows right along with what I have been thinking. We just recorded an episode of “Beyond the Box” last night (I think it is the one that will air this Wednesday) related to this very topic.

  2. “In the meantime, let us not grieve if a political election did not go the way we wanted. Let us grieve that the church has so poorly represented the gospel of the kingdom, the beauty of loving community, and the true nature and hope of our Lord.”

    well said!!!!!

  3. “As believers our involvement in the public arena at any level, whether simply voting or seeking public office, is always from the position of service not dominion.”

    This post speaks so well what I believe many are thinking, that I almost shunned the thought of adding a comment. The post says it all. However, I could not pass up an opportunity to say “well done.” The posture of service is grossly absent from much of what the Church does in many areas (not all). Even what is called “service”, is often a cloaked attempt to exercise dominion. Christ was a servant first, his followers should be also. Thanks for another great post!

  4. Wonderful post Grace!

    Let’s be honest about it ‘Dominion Theology’ is not Jesus theology – it is based on earthly power systems and lots of superstitution regarding prayer and so called ‘spiritual warfare’.If I were an atheist I would be asking the Dominion believers if God had fallen asleep on their prayer watches.So much time .effort and mainly sweat to try and exert ‘power’ thriugh prayer.

  5. Another provocative and balanced post – thanks, Grace! Three random thots:

    The only “Bible thumping” we should allow is that of the Publican who thumps his own chest and says, “LORD, be merciful to me, the sinner.”

    Frank Herbert (author of *Dune*) said, “Power is a magnet that draws the corruptible.” The only antidote I know of is service and, although it will frequently be misused or overlooked by those who crave power, still it plants seeds that may blossom into hope. And anyway, it is The Way of Jesus …

    Matt Stone talked recently about three kinds of cultural bases in their ideal and their consequence for breaking the idea: honour/shame (generally more Asian), innocence/guilt (more Western), and power/fear (more animist). If North American Christians continue moving toward a culture based in power/fear, we demonstrate we have more in common with animism and superstition than with overcoming and the Holy Spirit. Even as a non-post-Charismatic (which is one of the few characteristics I never had so I can’t be post- it), I am wary of how Christo-animistic many aspects of the New Apostolic Reformation look. This emphasis on power and fear can never look much like Jesus Christ, because true love casts out fear, and the presence of so much fear surely must be an indicator of very little true love – despite all the verbage.

    http://mattstone.blogs.com/glocalchristianity/2008/10/just-to-explain-hopefully.html

  6. I liked and absolutely agreed with this Grace:

    “When we enter into the public arena, it must be with humility, knowing that we overcome evil with good – with love, not power – demonstrating our faith through attention to the poor and becoming examples of the generosity that characterizes life in the kingdom.”

    Sad that we can’t get past our religious egos.

  7. “”As believers our involvement in the public arena at any level, whether simply voting or seeking public office, is always from the position of service not dominion. “”

    This is well said. Our place in politics starts with service and our involvement needs to be based on this.

    Thanks for this.

  8. “In the meantime, let us not grieve if a political election did not go the way we wanted. Let us grieve that the church has so poorly represented the gospel of the kingdom, the beauty of loving community, and the true nature and hope of our Lord.”

    This brought up a random thought, because regardless of who you voted for in the election, we are to accept the outcome as God’s choice, if I’m reading Scripture correctly.

    That said…it’s possible that the very reason Obama got elected–and why so many Christians voted for him–is for the purpose of the wake-up call. To reveal that the Christian conservative base so powerful in the last 2 elections somehow lost its way and stopped pursuing the greater purposes of God. (Or never really was doing so.) Perhaps this was God’s way of rattling our own political agendas so we would re-think them in a larger light.

    Great post, Grace. Thanks.

  9. Grace,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your post. Having left IC some six months ago I’ve been deconstructing and reading many others journey in this desert as well, including yours. The nagging thought I have when I read suggested routes for proving we are Christians is always an emphasis on serving the poor, the marginalized, etc. Jesus said ‘we will always have the poor’ so trying to make the poor more rich just sounds off. Bringing justice and service to all regardless of rich or poor or any other status sounds better to me. Lot’s of people of all stripes got totally hurt in the recent housing loan problems and resultant stock market crash. How would we bring the kingdom of God to them? What are your thoughts?

  10. Yes Grace – YES. Makes me recall the verse (Matthew 23:27) where Jesus talked about hypocrisy:

    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.”

    I specifically thought of that in terms of not focusing on the outward things but the inward – the heart, especially when you wrote:

    * “…we should no longer fast and pray for the world to be transformed to our likeness. We should pray until OUR HEARTS are changed.” – not everyone else’s hearts!

    * also “Rather than ‘cleaning the outside of the cup’ the people of God must abide in Christ’s transforming power. ” – it isn’t about the outside of the cup at all, it must be the inside and us abiding in Christ…

  11. I’ve been out of touch for a week, so when I got back to my computer, yours is one of the first blogs I am interested in – and for good reason. Your insights are so keen, and you are so gifted in articulating them. I can see from the string of posts how much your thoughts resonate with a rather diverse group of people. I believe it is true Kingdom language, and meat for today’s church. Thank you.

  12. Grace said this;

    Should we intercede? Yes, but we should no longer fast and pray for the world to be transformed to our likeness. We should pray until our hearts are changed. We should pray for wisdom and strategy to subvert darkness and evil in a manner that testifies of the goodness and compassion of God and results in His redemptive purposes.

    Makes me shiver. What a challenge…actually pray that???

    T

  13. Yes, yes and YES!!!
    “Let us grieve that the church has so poorly represented the gospel of the kingdom, the beauty of loving community, and the true nature and hope of our Lord.”
    Your writing is where I am at.
    Shalom.

  14. Hey, great comments everyone! I’ve had server issues this week. Sorry for my absence.

    steve,
    Now that I have my mp3 player figured out, I’ll be listening to you on one of my walks soon.

    cindy, john, sarah, peggy, and mimou,
    Thanks for taking the time to comment. I appreciate your encouragement.

    meridith, charlie, fred, bob, adam,
    I suspect that it will take a true turning of the heart to acknowledge and repent of the dominionist tendencies that we have seen put forth by the church as “serving.”

    brad,
    I am curions if the power/fear attribute is uniquely charismatic in nature.

    jeff and david,
    Interesting questions. I will give them some thought.

    chris, ed, ken, john, tom, mark,
    I appreciate your support and encouragement. Perhaps I am preaching to the choir, but this is kind of “out there” from what I am accustomed to hearing from Christians.

  15. Hi Grace. Immediate response that comes to mind in relation to the power/fear attribute and Charismatics is “No.” As a post-fundamentalist, I’ve seen some similar cultural dynamics in an emphasis on power/fear. However, it seems generally to go in a different direction. The Charistmatic/Pentecostal basically goes toward hyper-supernatural engagement, such as attempting to overpower demonic forces through spiritual warfare and to reshape society through imperialistic dominionism. Meanwhile, I suspect overall that the fundamentalist version basically goes toward super-spiritual disengagement – “We’re spiritual, the world is evil, so we isolate in order not to become tainted.” Because (at least in my experience) fundamentalists generally don’t have a dominant doctrine of demonology and spiritual warfare, their “fear factor” attaches to the “evil of the world system.”

    It may seem odd that power/fear can go in such opposite directions. But maybe that’s an indicator of a very modernist paradigm where all polarities get split, as with conservative-versus-liberal theology, or overemphasis on demons versus underemphasis on demons.

    Final thought for the moment: Could it be that instead of any of these forms of power/fear, that the truly biblical and Christlike-character version is empowerment/love? (Where empowerment is about lifting others up to live well instead of overpowering them to live my way; and true love that casts out fear…)

  16. Grace,

    Perhaps you are preaching to the ‘choir’, but fear not – I’m sure I speak for myself and others on here when I say that we are not surrounded in our churches and communities by people who feel or see this way.. we are agents of change, catalysts for the kingdom.. encouraging, provoking, inspiring, loving others into this reality.. another world is possible :)

    I personally am humbled, encouraged and thrilled that God is doing this, through us, by his spirit, and we get to enjoy the adventure!

    Jx

  17. brad,
    Very interesting. I agree with your conclusion of how the fear is expressed differently by charismatics and fundamentalists and the difference in their interpretation of evil.

    By necessity, I believe that empowerment requires an element of trust, in the other person and in the Spirit who ultimately empowers. This kind of trust must overcome the fear that would attempt to control. True love must have that capacity to release.

    john,
    It is encouraging to me to hear from you and others who share this vision for another reality and a fuller expression of the kingdom.

    jeff,
    Whether it is God who does the shaking or perhaps just the nature of trusting in things that can be shaken, I agree that the rattling of this particular election is/should be a wake-up call to American christians concerning our view of and participation in the political arena.

  18. david,
    I’m sorry it took me this long to get back to your questions. They aren’t easy questions. In saying that the poor will always be with us, I don’t believe that Jesus was indicating that this was how it must be. I also don’t believe the desired end result is to make the poor rich, but rather that needs would be met in our love and care for one another.

    There isn’t a socio-economic utopia that can be achieved by the government. The utopia that the kingdom offers wouldn’t necessarily be defined by economic markers, but rather by the economy of the spirit. Bringing the kingdom of God into situations of economic crisis may not result in prosperity, but rather in an altered value system and a different perspective of hope and success.

    I know that is a pretty brief answer to the complex questions you raised.

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