I have really enjoyed Jonathan Merritt’s book, A Faith of Our Own. In fact, I am scheduling a review of it soon – but I already suggest you read it. You might not like all of it – but let it challenge your thinking. It has mine. Here’s a timely excerpt in light of the whole, “buy a chicken sandwich, save Christianity” rhetoric buzzing the internet:
As Tony Campolo has said, ‘All too frequently, Christian activists at both ends of the spectrum see power as the primary instrument for saving the world. “If we just had the power,” they say, “we could set everything right.” I want to say to them, “I wonder why Jesus didn’t think of that!”
When the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate asked Jesus if He was the “king of the Jews”, it was his way of saying, “Do I need to be worried about you? Is your kingdom going to threaten my kingdom?”
Jesus runs an end around: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But my kingdom is from another place.”
Jesus’ kingdom is otherworldly, totally new, and it will not be realized through the power or victories of armies and legislation. Like any kingdom, God’s kingdom will only be established by increasing reign of the King through expanding the number of subjects who are unrelenting in their commitment to Him.
When Christians recognize that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, they remember that they don’t struggle against flesh and blood. Our enemies are not pornographers, humanists, socialists, religious extremists, racists, or even terrorists. Christians must grapple against spiritual and institutional powers, powers without a face at which to point our fingers and say, “You helped this happen.”
If Jesus’ kingdom were of this world, He told Pilate, then His followers would be playing by the world’s rules. They would mirror the world’s tone in their speech and employ the world’s tactics to foster a physical uprising. But Jesus and His disciples looked nothing like this.
When the religious leaders attempted to make Jesus choose sides, He declined. When one of His disciples attempted to employ the world’s tactics at His arrest, Jesus rebuked him and displayed a radically different approach. Through His life and ministry, Christ made it clear that His kingdom could not be pursued by marginalizing those who seek to marginalize you, attacking those who attack you, or combating “anti-Christian” earthly kingdoms by installing “semi-Christian” earthly kingdoms. Instead, Jesus calls His subjects to begin loving, serving, and hopefully transforming the enemy who seeks to destroy you.
The kingdom, Jesus demonstrates, can never be won through a culture war because it promotes serving above winning, sacrifice above entitlement, giving above taking over.
Would you like waffle fries with that?