The counter-intuitive wisdom of the cross

An Easter meditation

The trouble with the cross is that it’s a counter-intuitive solution for the sin of the world.

The evil in God’s earthly realm is the rejection of his divine authority, people grasping power for themselves and using that power to deceive and dominate each other. It offends our sense of justice, so we want revenge. We can’t sit by and do nothing, but taking matters into our own hands and fighting back only perpetrates the cycle of violence.

We want God to act against evil, to put down his foot and crush it so it can’t continue. God doesn’t. God doesn’t act violently to overcome violence. God doesn’t use force against force. God does not control evil by doing evil against evil-doers.

So what does God do to deal with the injustice in his realm? He enters his unjust realm as one of us. He meets face-to-face with the rebellion against his reign, the people who will do anything to take divine power into their own hands. God confronts evil, from a position of powerlessness. Continue reading “The counter-intuitive wisdom of the cross”

The Lord’s supper as imperial banquet?

Could “the Lord’s supper” be rendered better as “the imperial banquet”?

When Paul mentions the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:20), he does something very odd. The normal word for Lord is kyrios, but Paul uses kyriakos. This is a rare word (only here and Revelation 1:10), so it’s a significant choice, not something you could do by accident. Why did he choose this word? What did he mean? Continue reading “The Lord’s supper as imperial banquet?”

The Lord’s table: the Jewish background

Christians meet around the Lord’s Table. Some call it Eucharist (receiving the goodness of God’s grace). Some call it communion (communing with Jesus and his people). Why is it called the Lord’s Table?

The phrase occurs only once in the NT, and it’s worth the effort to understand:

Continue reading “The Lord’s table: the Jewish background”

It doesn’t end with Armageddon

What message do you have for the future of the earth? “Armageddon,” or “I’m a garden”?

The battle of Armageddon frightens people who don’t understand John’s vision. It’s not a picture of a terrifying future. It’s a promise: the kingdom of God overcomes everything the world can throw at it. John sees that the combined force of all the armies in the world cannot bring down the King of Kings or block his reign. Continue reading “It doesn’t end with Armageddon”

What will the post-apocalyptic world be like?

A dark future? The “four horsemen of the Apocalypse” tell a different story.

Does the church have a message of hope for the world?

Netflix has loads of post-apocalyptic movies, portraying a dark future. To be honest, these dystopian disasters seem a bit overblown while I’m sitting back in a comfy chair, connected to the internet, streaming to a big TV. But movies allow us to explore alternative realities, and that experience can help us shape our choices today.

So where will technology take us? When the industrial revolution took off, the mood was unbridled optimism, the expectation that technology could solve all our problems. Today the mood is darker. Post-apocalyptic movies explore the destructive power of war. We build underground bunkers to survive after we’ve nuked earth’s surface. We search for another planet to call home after messing up this one. We imagine a violent world where people kill for what little is left. Perhaps we’ll face extinction if the machines evolve faster than we do. Only the most brutal survive in this post-apocalyptic world.

You know what bothers me most about this dark picture? This is how the church’s message has been heard. The word apocalyptic comes from the Bible. The Apocalypse is the Book of Revelation. People imagined that Revelation was about the end of the world, so post-apocalyptic has come to mean after the end of the world as we know it.

Continue reading “What will the post-apocalyptic world be like?”

Tenants on God’s farm

My Dad was a farmer. So was his Dad. They didn’t like “greenies” as they called environmental protesters. But they held the farm across generations, so they wanted to treat the land in a sustainable way.

My Dad always ploughed across the slope, so the furrows held the water, not down the slope where the water would wash the soil away. He hated overstocking: he reckoned farmers who carried too many head per acre had more droughts than those who looked after the land. In a time when many farmers burned off the stubble after harvest, he ploughed it back into the soil. Periodically he even spelled the paddocks (leaving then fallow).

He wasn’t perfect, but he taught me to respect the land, to see it as a gift from God for us to use and care for. It was just a small farm tucked away in a little valley with a creek running down between the mountains. When I go back there, I still feel that love of the land, a deep connection to country. Continue reading “Tenants on God’s farm”

Refugees

Border protection is a big deal for both sides of politics in Australia. Stop the boats. Turn back the people-smugglers who put lives at risk with their leaky boats. Block the undesirables who don’t share our values. Don’t let the queue-jumpers in.

For more than a decade, we’ve heard these mantras from our rulers. Their polling assures them that the hard-line approach wins votes.

At times we’ve been shocked to see images of the off-shore detention centres. We wonder if we’re justified to lock people up for years as a deterrent. We’re concerned when they’re reduced to self-harm.

Now, don’t get scared about where this is going. I’m not suggesting we all march on Canberra to demand a change of policy. I’m not writing to Canberra. I’m writing to you, a follower of Jesus. I want you to consider how Jesus sees these issues. Surely that’s what defines how we respond.

Continue reading “Refugees”

How should we treat the rulers of this world?

Aussies have a rebellious streak. We couldn’t list the names of our Prime Ministers, but we remember Ned Kelly. We love Waltzing Matilda, the ballad of a sheep rustler who drowns rather than surrender to the authorities.

So, do we have a bad attitude to government? Are we meant to respect our government, treating it as God’s servant to maintain order in our society? Or are we right to be suspicious?

Are governments servants of God, or substitutes for God? Continue reading “How should we treat the rulers of this world?”

Activism: confronting the powers

What kind of activism are we called to? Confronting the powers of evil, or being the community of a different king?

Christian activists have usually raised a voice for peaceful protest. Fifty years after Martin Luther King called for nonviolent resistance against systemic injustice, we still hear his voice.

Walter Wink called Christians to expose the evil that is endemic in the power systems of this world. He called us to name evil for what it is, to unmask its insidious nature, to engage it through non-violent confrontation. Even in the titles of his books, you can hear him calling the church to stand against corruption: Naming the Powers (1984), Unmasking the Powers (1986), Engaging the Powers (1992), When the Powers Fall (1998), The Powers that Be (1999). A choir of other of voices also call us to non-violent resistance: John Howard Yoder, Stanley Hauerwas, Shane Claiborne, Jarrod McKenna, and so on.

Are they right? Is power the problem we must address? Is that our task, to stand against the injustice that’s systemic in the way the world is run? To those questions, I want to answer Yes and No. Their diagnosis of the problem is spot on, but their response doesn’t resolve the problem.

Continue reading “Activism: confronting the powers”

Activism: is it kingdom work?

Should Christians be activists?

Good news! Jesus is the Christ. That means he’s chosen by heaven and anointed with power to rule the earth. He is restoring heaven’s government to a world that has been terrorized by competing claims and civil war ever since humans tried to take God’s power into their own hands.

This is good news for the world because it’s how the violent hostilities are replaced by divine peace. Peace can never be achieved through force. The cross is the ultimate paradox for solving violence. The all-powerful God placed himself at the centre of the battle for power, giving himself for his people, reconciling us to himself and to one another.

This is how hostilities end. The cross is God confronting human power claims. It’s how God restores peace, by uniting us under his governance (Ephesians 2:14-17).

What does that mean for earthly kingdoms?

Continue reading “Activism: is it kingdom work?”