In the book of Ephesians, St. Paul encourages two vastly different cultural groups to come together as one body. Though it is easy to skim over, this encouragement was – and is – HUGE! Think about it: Paul isn’t saying that the Greek-Romans have to give up their culture to become like the Jews; nor does he say that the Jews have to give up their culture to be like the Greek-Romans. Rather he is calling for both groups to embrace the discomfort that comes with having two cultures intermingled as one. Powerful teaching that is need today more than ever before! Learn more about this topic in the below video as we look to become one body with multiple cultures.
Let us contemplate with faith the mystery of the divine incarnation and in all simplicity let us simply praise Him who in His great generosity became man for us. For who, relying on the power of rational demonstration, can explain how the conception of the divine Logos took place? How was flesh generated without seed? How was there an engendering without loss of maidenhood? How did a mother after giving birth remain a virgin? How did He who was supremely perfect develop as He grew up (cf. Luke 2:52)? How was He who was pure baptized? How did He who was hungry give sustenance (cf Matt. 4: 2; 14:14-21)? How did He who was weary impart strength (cf. John 4:6)? How did He who suffered dispense healing? How did He who was dying bestow life?
And, to put the most important last, how did God become man? And – what is even more mysterious – how did the Logos, while subsisting wholly, essentially and hypostatically in the Father, also exist essentially and hypostatically in the flesh? How did He who is wholly God by nature become wholly man by nature, not renouncing either nature in any way at all, neither the divine, through which He is God, nor ours, through which He became man? Faith alone can embrace these mysteries, for it is faith that makes real for us things beyond intellect and reason (cf. Heb. 11:1).
-St. Maximos the Confessor (580-662 C.E), “Various Texts on Theology, the Divine Economy, and Virtue and Vice”
A few days ago I attending a Black Lives Matter prayer vigil in front of the Idaho State capital building. There were close to 5,000, if not more, people at the vigil which was very peaceful and well organized. The central part of the vigil was the moment in which we paused in silent in remembrance of the black lives killed at the hands of the police. Every 15 seconds during this time a name was read out loud with the crowd repeating it. To say that this was a holy and powerful experience would be an understatement.
Towards the end of the vigil during the singing of a spiritual, a chain of trucks and cars drove around the crowd with Trump and USA flags flying high. Verbal comments were thrown out of the vehicles towards the people peacefully remembering and praying for those lost.
In watching this display, I was struck by the context of a symbol can affect how it is perceive and received. An American flag by itself can bring to the forefront a fairly neutral memory of a nation. Flying this same flag on a vehicle driving around a Black Lives Matter prayer vigil change it to one of horror and pain. You see, it was under the American flag that African women and men were taken from Africa and sold into slavery within this country. And it is under this same flag that modern black women and men are oppressed and killed.
In a similar way, it was those under the USA flag who sought to wipe out the indigenous nations of this land. This includes members of my family who lived and died as Cherokee Indians. The memory of these relatives remain strong despite the years that have gone by.
Before attending the Black Lives Matter prayer vigil, I watched a video by one of the organizers. In this video, the comment was made that they did not trust the police because of the centuries of abuse at the hands of the people in power. This was because the police, National Guard, and USA Military have been used to harm communities of color (black, brown and red) for hundreds of years. Trust, once lost, is extremely hard to regain.
It wasn’t that long ago that the FBI was worked against the Civil Rights and American Indian Movements through their Counterintelligence Program by discrediting organizations the government didn’t like. It wasn’t that long ago that police forces tried to stop Marin Luther King Jr. and the peaceful nonviolent protests of the Civil Right era.
Sheriffs and US Marshals were used by the government to arrest Cherokee citizens living in their land without a warrant and haul them across the national border to prison without a trial. It was the police and other law enforcement members who forcefully took Cherokee children away from their homes to be raised in government sponsored boarding school. “Kill the Indian, and Save the Man” as USA Brigadier General Richard H. Pratt said in 1892.
What we are seeing today is the result of hundreds of years of community trauma and built up rage. People can only be oppressed for so long before they rise up. Shoot, the USA nation itself was founded by people who rioted and looted (e.g. Boston tea party) after been oppressed by a government who didn’t seem to care about them.
Being a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, I can’t help but go back and look at him.
Jesus of Nazareth was born in the 1st century to a Jewish family living under the rule of the Roman Empire. The people of Israel had at that time spent hundreds of years living under various oppressive regimes (Babylon, Greek, Roman). Yes, they had a brief time of independence under the Hasmonean dynasty, but that just sought to strength their resolve to be free.
Each of these regimes sought to wipe out the Jewish culture/religion/language (not unlike how the USA treated the Native Americans). In response to this, many of the Jews turned to riots and violence in hopes of finding justice. Jesus himself lived through multiple of these upraising.
Interestingly enough, we don’t have record of Jesus condemning these uprisings beyond the simple statement that those who live by the sword die by the sword. In contrast to this we have TONS of records of him condemning the religious leaders who supported the status quo (Sadducees and Pharisees). We also see Jesus recurring one of the nationalist rebels (Simon the Zealot) along with someone who could be considered a traitor to the nation of Israel (Matthew the tax collector) and making them part of his inner group. Through love and reconciliation, Jesus brought them together as a family who loved and carried for each other.
Building from this place of reconciliation, Jesus added in members of the occupying military force (i.e. various Roman army leaders) along with some Sadducees, Pharisees, regular folks, and, most likely, other Zealots. The unifying point was love and justice as seen in and through the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Noting, of course, that Jesus led multiple peaceful protests and at least one violence protest (i.e. turning over the money tables in the temple) against the powers that be. It was these actions that got him killed.
Bring this back to modern times, I strongly feel that true leadership is one that acknowledges and works to heal the historical trauma experienced by African-Americans, Latinos, Indigenous, and other minority groups within the USA by the government and dominant culture of the USA. We need a national dialogue on race, gender and class through a Truth and Conciliation Commission similar to what happened in South Africa, Canada, and other countries. Without such a commission, we will never be able to truly heal our country and our people.
Lest we forget, claiming Jesus as our Lord and King goes beyond giving him priority over our country, religion, and holy book. There is a very real, albeit unseen, transfer of allegiance that happens when we bow our knees to the Risen King and call upon him to rescue us (e.g. Romans 10:9-13, Colossians 1:12-13). At that precise moment in time we are “delivered from Satan’s kingdom and catapulted into the kingdom of God.” No longer are we bound by the chains of sin, addictions, pain, sorrow, death, and evil. We are now children of the Living God, joint heirs with Jesus the Messiah (e.g. Romans 8:17, Galatians 4:4-7).
Though unseen, and sometimes even unfelt, this spiritual exchange of sovereignties is at the core of the good news of Jesus. Throughout the Scriptures there is a paradox where the Creator God is described as both the current King and the coming King of the world. This paradox is set against the backdrop of a battle being raged across the visible and invisible dimensions of creation between the forces of evil and the Lord Almighty. Though the origin of this war is shrouded in mystery with the Scriptures being silent on the details that we so desperately crave, the biblical authors understood that fighting against “such things as injustice, oppression, greed, and apathy toward the needy was to participate directly or indirectly in a cosmic war that had engulfed the earth.”
Accordingly, the choice to follow Jesus is also a choice not to follow the ways of the evil one. Hence the early followers of Jesus understood that the “one who professed in response to the gospel, ‘I believe,’ was the one who said simultaneously: ‘I renounce you Satan, your pomp, your service, your works’ (Chrysostom); ‘I renounce the devil and his work, this age and its pleasure’ (Ambrose).” Theologian and pastor Don Williams elaborates on this exchange of sovereignties in declaring that:
To say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ means to renounce all other lords. No ideology, political philosophy, drug or person can have a higher claim on our lives. All our idols must be pulled down, repented of and crushed at Jesus’ feet. The idols of pride, power, control, self-medication, family, friends, illicit sex, internet pornography, legalism, self-righteousness, mind-altering meditation, witchcraft, magic, cults, gambling, work, self-advancement, children, health, and security in old age must go. Anything that takes the place of Jesus in our hearts, in our passions and in our devotion is an idol. As Elijah the prophet said to the nation of Israel, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him’ (1 Kings 18:21). God has called us and revealed Jesus as Lord to us. Follow Him!
 Don Williams, Start Here: Kingdom Essentials for Christians (Ventura, California: Regal, 2006), 7.
 Gregory A. Boyd, God At War: The Bible and Spiritual Conflict (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 14.
 Paul R. Hinlicky, Beloved Community: Critical Dogmatics after Christendom (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2015), 221.
 Don Williams, Start Here, 16-17.
Every morning at 8:30 am during the school year my son lines up with his classmates to recite three pledges before starting the day. They start by reciting the Pledge to the American Flag before moving on to the Pledge to the Christian Flag and the Pledge to the Bible. Though these young students may not realize the full impact of their words, they are declaring their loyalty to the nation they live in (i.e. United States of America), their religion (i.e. Christianity), and their holy book (i.e. the Bible).
I would wager a guess that there are millions of people around the world reciting similar pledges. They may even recite these pledges in the same order – giving allegiance first to their nation (e.g. USA, India, China, Israel, Russia, Canada, etc.), then to their religion (e.g. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hindu, Wicca, Atheism, etc.), and finally to their holy writings (e.g. Bible, Koran, Tripitaka, Vedas, etc.). I would further guess that most of these people, Jesus followers include, don’t even think twice about the pledges they are reciting. After all, it is normal to love the nation you live in, the religion you follow, and the holy writings you read.
Yet, if I may vocalize a nagging question in the back of my head, should a follower of Jesus pledge their loyalty and allegiance to a nation, religion, or holy book? And if so, should we be concerned about the order in which we pledge our allegiance? Say, instead of pledging our loyalty to our nation first, maybe we should pledge our allegiance to our religion, our holy writings, and then to our nation…. or should we just stop saying the pledges all together?
Jesus followers throughout history have come to different conclusions concerning those questions. They are not easy questions to answer as they have wide ranging implications for how we live our lives and how we interact with the world around us. For my part, I go back and forth between saying all three pledges, saying some of them, and not saying them at all. My country, religion, and holy writings have all impacted my life to a degree that words cannot fully express. Yet despite of my love for all three, there’s a war deep inside of me for I know how my love for my nation, religion, and holy writings can, and does, compete for my love for Jesus. And that concerns me.
I was first introduced to Jesus by my parents who met him from their parents who likewise met the King through the influence of their parents. I remember early morning livestock feedings on the farm with my father talking about Creator or times under the hood of a vehicle talking about doing all things unto the King. There were also times of talking with my mother about the strange and odd verses in the Scriptures that didn’t seem to make sense. Though some might think that this genealogy would lead to a lackluster religion more concerned about keeping tradition than knowing the person of Jesus, that wasn’t the case for me. Somehow my parents had managed to escape the religiosity and skepticism of the day, even while feeling the pain and disappointment that often leaks out from the rotting corpses housed in whitewashed tombs. And in doing so they taught me to love Jesus and watch for his presence in all areas of life.
These early lessons of seeing past the trappings of life to find Jesus helped me navigate the “witch’s brew of politics, cultural conflict, moralism, and religious meanness that seems so closely connected with those who count themselves the special friends of Jesus.” Sadly, throughout history there have always been people who have used Jesus to support their own political and religious agendas. This is especially true for those in power in the United States of America, to the point that to “millions of people around the world, Jesus Christ is synonymous with Western society and America.”
During the 1st century when Jesus walked the earth, there were multiple views of the kingdom of God and how that kingdom was manifested in real life. Jesus could have embraced the strict religious rules of the Pharisees who sought to perfectly follow the Mosaic Law for one day as to usher in the rule and reign of the Heavenly Father. Or Jesus could have retreated into the desert to study the Scriptures and worship the Lord like the Essenes. The Sadducees also offered Jesus a way forward, a way of wealth and riches through their partnership with the Roman Empire.
The Romans themselves would have loved it if Jesus would have endorsed their way of life. After all, they were the greatest nation in the world at the time with an empire that stretched across three continents. Or if Jesus didn’t like the pagan worshiping Romans being in the land of promise, he could have joined the Zealots and fought to take back the land for God. There were plenty of people at the time who would have loved to make Jesus king of Israel. All he needed to do is say the word and the revolution would have begun.
Jesus, however, did not and does not “endorse
any other way, any other moral code except his own. Jesus was [and is]
exclusively the Way.” He is “the way and the truth and the life” as the
Apostle John wrote quoting our Lord (John 14:6, NIV).
Knowing God is a “matter of personal contact” with Jesus rather than doctrine, religious duties, money,
ethics, lifestyle, or any of the other boundaries people have created over the
 Pledge to the American Flag – “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
 Pledge to the Christian Flag – “I pledge allegiance to the Christian Flag and to the Savior for whose Kingdom it stands. One Savior, crucified, risen, and coming again with life and liberty to all who believe.”
 Pledge to the Bible – “I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s Holy Word, I will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path and will hide its words in my heart that I might not sin against God.”
 Ken Wilson, Jesus Brand Spirituality: He Wants His Religion Back (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2008), 1.
 Carl Medearis, Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism (Colorado Spring, Colorado: David C. Cook, 2011), 61.
 Additional information on the different political and religious views of the kingdom of God challenged by Jesus can be found in chapter seven and nine of my previous book, The Here and Not Yet (Vineyard International Publishing, 2017).
 Carl Medearis, Speaking of Jesus, 155.
 Carl Medearis, Speaking of Jesus, 70.
Like a lot of people, today has been an odd day with lots of thoughts floating my skull. It started last night though I knew nothing of the Las Vegas tragedy until this morning.
For me, my thoughts started with Thomas Cahill’s book Sailing The Wine-Dark Seas: Why the Greeks Matter which I was reading. In this book, Cahill notes that one of the most cherished philosophical foundation of Western culture is that war is a natural part of life. As Heraclitus (535-475 BC) once said, “War is the father of all, the king of all.” Plato (427-347 BC) would echo this saying years later with his statement that war is a necessity “always existing by nature.”
Armed with this philosophical foundation, the Greeks developed a fighting style that could help them conquer the known world under the leadership of Alexander the Great. The Romans would later build on this foundation of war, gifting the Western world with the knowledge on how to kill people with great efficiency – as WW1, WW2, the Cold War, nuclear arms, and the like attest.
This morning on the way to work I found myself at a stop light staring at a “peace” sign made up of rifles with the phrase “There’s no peace without guns” next to it. As I sat there, I couldn’t help but think about the sadness of this saying… though it may make perfect sense to some, it seems counter to the way of Jesus of Nazareth who told his followers to turn the other cheek (Mt 5:38-40), love and bless those who hate them (Mt 5:43-48, Lk 6:27-36), and forgive those who harm them (Lk 23:34, Acts 7:60).
A few minutes after I saw this sticker, a NPR story came on about the Las Vegas shooting – which was the first I had heard about the tragedy….
Growing up I had a temper that went extremely well with my red hair. I would purposely pick fights with my older brother (who would then proceed to beat the snot out of me), friends, and various cousins. Though this temper dampened a bit as I grew older, it was an encounter with Jesus during my teen years that started me on a journey of learning how to control my emotions.
Years later I read Colin Woodard’s book American Nations which brought to light some of my feelings growing up. In this book, Woodard highlights the eleven different cultural nations within the United States. The area I grew up in was called the Greater Appalachia and was settled by folks from the “war-ravaged borderlands of Northern Ireland, northern England, and the Scottish lowlands” (a description that matches my family history perfectly). Immigrants from there areas brought with them a culture of personal sovereignty and individual liberty shaped by a “state of constant danger” and a need to protect their livestock (something cultural anthropologist have noted, especially in comparison with more farm based cultures which thrive in more peaceful areas).
I mention this background as I want you all to know that I understand some of the warrior culture that is rampant in the USA today. It is normal to want to fight back – to be on the winning side. It is also normal to want to hold on to the weapons allowed our forefathers to create this nation of ours. And, if I’m perfectly honest, there is part of me who wants to continue living this way. Only I met Someone who wouldn’t let me continue along that path…
The more I get to know Jesus, the more I realize that what I think is “normal” is really “abnormal.” Reading the four gospel accounts of the life of Jesus changed the way I viewed the world around me as well as how I read the rest of the Bible.
Then there are people like Rick Love, Micael Grenholm, and Brad Jersak who challenge me to think though the way of peace and non-violence. And, not to be forgotten, authors like Brian Zahnd, Greg Boyd, Desmond Tutu, and Alexander Venter provided me with additional puzzle pieces to hold and ponder.
Though I haven’t quite figured out how everything fits together; I do know is that I firmly believe that violence begets violence and revenge is something best left for the Creator. I don’t know what that means for public policy nor what I would do if personally attacked. I just know that I must continue my walk towards pacifism as it seems to be the direction Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is walking.
One day, the Creator promised, there will be no more war, no more death, and no more crying. Until that that day, I will cry with my brothers and sisters who suffer at the hands of mad men and women who think that violence is the way forward.
May the One Who Cries hold all those affect by Las Vegas close by,
May He shed tears of sorrow with them,
May He embrace their pain and give them peace,
May He bring comfort in the midst of unanswerable questions.
There is a lot of talk these days about the symbols of the Confederacy. As a southern born and raised follower of Jesus, I thought I would add my voice to the conversation. As dangerous as that might be…
When talking about symbols of any kind, we must understand two very important things about them. The first is that understanding that symbols are more than the material used to create them. They bring to the surface a full range of emotions because of what they represent. As I write in my recent book, The Here and Not Yet:
Symbols are powerful. They can bring a tear to an eye, give hope to the hopeless and inspire people to go beyond themselves. They can also summon up anger, grief and rage in a blink of an eye. Symbols in and of themselves are nothing; hardly worth the cloth or paper they are made on. Yet to us humans, the right symbol could cause us to do things that we would never do on our own. Just think about the soldiers who risked their lives to raise the United States flag on Iwo Jima during War World II. On the surface their actions were crazy and not worth the blood and sweat that it took. Yet, because they raised a symbol and not just a piece of cloth, their blood and sweat was worth it.
Or to use another example, think about the symbol of two pieces of wood laid on top of each other in the shape of the letter “t”. The cross. In some parts of the world, the simple act of drawing a cross would mean certain death. Why? Is there something magical about two lines crossing each other in a certain pattern? No! The lines themselves are not the problem; the problem is in what those two lines represent. In drawing a cross, the artist is declaring that their loyalty, heart, soul, mind, and body belong to King Jesus and no one else. That cross, however simple it is drawn, tells the story about a Creator who entered into his creation so that those made in his image could be free from all evil. That is why the cross is feared in certain parts of the world. (pages 167-168)
The second thing to remember about symbols is that they mean different things to different people. And the meaning constantly changes over time. The cross, for example, started out as a symbol of the military might of the Roman Empire before becoming a symbol of Christianity. Its meaning changed yet again when Constantine painted the symbol on the shields of his army before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. And so forth and so forth.
The point of all this is that when we talk about symbols we need to keep in mind that the meaning of a symbol change depending on the culture of the viewer, the time during which the symbol is used, and the location of the symbol. An American flag, for example, flying over a public school building in Idaho will have a different meaning than the same flag flying cover a military unit in Iraq. The emotions that come to the surface while viewing that flag will also change depending on one’s culture, background, and geographical location. A school kid in Idaho looking at that flag will have a different range of emotions than a USA soldier or an Iraqi citizen.
While it is tempting to try to assign a value to the emotions experienced by each of these people (i.e. to say that the soldier’s emotions is good while the Iraqi’s emotions are bad), the followers of Jesus must resist that urge. To follow King Jesus is to give up one’s national, personal, and religious symbols in exchange for his symbols and his meanings.
This is why Paul the Apostle fought so hard against the symbols of Judaism (e.g. circumcision, the temple, kosher meals, and a physical presence in the land of Israel) some wish to imposed on the Gentile church members. To a 1st century follower of Judaism, these were the symbols that marked who was and was not a member of the people of God. They had fought and died over for years for the right to keep those symbols.
Paul, in following the way of Jesus, recognized that these symbols had to undergo a metamorphosis if the church was to truly be the people of God. The changes championed by Paul caused a lot of problems in the early church as people did not want give up their symbols, as noted in the Acts and some of Paul’s letters. Yet ultimately the Jewish followers of Jesus realized that they had to let go of their hard-fought symbols so that God could use them to change the world.
We are in a similar position.
We can hang on tight to the symbols of our youth and culture (e.g. Confederate flag, Civil War monuments, etc.) while denying the pain of our fellow sisters and brothers who experience a different set of emotions when viewing those same symbols. Or we can follow the path of humanity as modeled by Jesus, Paul, and the early church in letting go of the symbols of our youth so that we can fully embrace our sisters and brothers as a new community born out of a love for Jesus.
Pride or humility.
It really is that simple.
Last week I attended the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit for the first time. Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, spoke on Thursday about fighting on behalf of those on the edge of society. Immaculée Ilibagiza, a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, spoke the following day about the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation.
That evening, Friday, August 11th, waves of hate flowed out of hades on to the streets of Charlottesville.
In the days that followed that initial onslaught, the hatred continued to build as the goo of evil slimed the United States of America. While some political leaders spoke out against the hatred of the neo-Nazi and white supremacy groups, our president remained largely silent. And when he did speak, he ultimately spoke up on behalf of those deep within the wave of hate.
Though I knew we as a nation were still working towards full racial reconciliation, I must admit that I didn’t realize how far behind we really were. Perhaps my status as a white male has clouded my vision…perhaps I wanted to believe that we were further along the path…perhaps…perhaps….
The one thing I know for sure is that the way of the Creator is one of peace and reconciliation.
Hatred, racism, ethnocentrism, and nationalism has no place in the kingdom of God. In pledging our allegiance to Jesus, we have renounce not only Satan and the forces of evil, but also our nationalist and racial claims. We are now members of a new Kingdom under a new King whose citizens span the globe and the course of history. We are, as John the Revelator said, part of a “great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9, NIV).
Let us, therefore, lay down our ethnic and nationalistic pride and stand with the least of these – with the racial minorities – with those on the edge of society – with those who don’t have a voice. As the Apostle Paul said long ago to another group who was racially divided:
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:1-5, NIV)
It is a sad but true reality that many of the followers of Jesus do not take care of the creation the Creator King made. Instead, they quote selected Bible verses, chosen to support their view that what they do to the environment (biological and geological) does not matter. After all, it is all going to burn anyway. Or so goes the standard view of a lot of Christianity today. In stark opposition to this view is the concept of Kingdom Theology which declares that the rule and reign of the King over every area of life and everything, created or uncreated, invisible or visible.
Time itself began with the Creator King declaring that everything was good. The dirt was good; the animals of the land, sea and sky were good; the trees, grass, and plants that covered earth was good. Everything that was made or would be made was good. This declaration of the King of Kings has never been revoked. It is a fact that God made this planet and all other planets across the galaxies of the vast skies, simply because he wanted to. He found joy in creating things that no eye, animal or human, would ever see. And he declared it all good. Things did change when Adam and Eve decided to try to rule things themselves, as we have seen. Despite the entrance of sin, evil and death into the creation, the essence of creation remained good.
Sadly, as the years rolled by, the creation was ground down by sin and evil. Things that were beautiful became deadly; elements that were to bring life, instead brought death. The struggle for survival overtook every plant, animal, and biological cell, as each fought for life. Each day since the entrance of sin and evil into the land, the land has groaned for the arrival of the day of the Lord when everything would be set right (Romans 8:19-25).
Into this messy world came the King himself, taking on the very flesh of his creation. In doing this, as we have seen, the Creator King ushered in the new age of life. Now, when his followers pick up a piece of trash on the side of the road, they are declaring that the kingdom of God has come and brought redemption to that piece of land, no matter how small. The selfless act of a child of the King has come against and defeated the selfish act of sin that caused someone to throw that piece of trash on the ground. It is a spiritual battle being fought in what looks like a simple act of picking up a piece of trash.
If this seems too radical, please consider that one of the reasons why God took the people of Israel out of the Promised Land was because they failed to give the land rest. One of the laws given to the people of Israel while in the desert with Moses was that every seven years they were to let the land rest. No plow was to turn the soil; no garden was to be planted or orchard pruned. This was to be the Sabbath year in which the people would trust the Creator King to provide the daily sustenance for them. Sadly, the people of Israel found this command too hard, so they as a group refused to follow it, leading them to the day when the King removed them from the land so that the land could rest (2 Chronicles 36:21).
The Book of Ezekiel also tells us that the Creator King was upset at the people of Israel for defiling the land through “their conduct and actions” (Ezekiel 36:17). Specifically, God was telling the people that their worship of idols and misconduct (i.e. the spilling of blood in the land through murder, human sacrifice, injustice and war), was harming the environment around them. The land itself had become defiled and, therefore, God was going to have them removed for a period of time. Later on, after the land had rested and the people have repented, the Creator King would bring the people of Israel back into the Promised Land and make it plentiful again with an abundance of grain, crops, and fruit (Ezekiel 36:24–36).
I tell you this because I want you to know how much the Creator King cares for his creation. He doesn’t just care for humanity, though humanity is his prime creation within whom he breathed his very soul. No, the heart of the King is for all his creation, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant. We, the followers of Jesus alive today, should be warned by the example of the people of Israel, and start taking care of the land and animals around us. We should be the people on the forefront of the environmental movements across the globe, planting trees, picking up trash, and finding sustainable ways of building things.
Sadly, people have bought into the lie that to take care of the environment is not to care for humanity. They think it is a zero sum game in which one side has to win no matter what. However, if we take a step back and look at the amount of resources we use in a given day or year, we will find that we typically consume way too much. This is especial true for us in the United States, where our very economy is built upon hyper consumption without a thought of waste or where those resources come from. This needs to change; it has to change as the Creator will protect his creation one way or another.
Additional information on the topic of Environmental Stewardship can be found in the following three books:
In my upcoming book (The Here and Not Yet: What is Kingdom Theology and why does it matter?) I define Kingdom Theology as a way of life that acknowledges that through the person of Jesus, the new age of life broke into human history and provided humanity with a new way to live life, while also acknowledging that the rule of evil, sin and death is still actively resisting the leadership change (i.e. enacted inaugurated eschatology).
We are only six days into 2017 and already there has been two news articles written about Kingdom Theology. And unfortunately, they both miss the mark on defining Kingdom Theology.
The first article (Jan 1st at PJ Media) directly defined “Kingdom Theology” as the desire use government power to create the God’s kingdom “here on earth.” The author then proceed to tell his readers that this view was incorrect. Rather the modern Christian shouldn’t “try to force” the kingdom to come down to earth “before the right season has come.” In doing so, the author not only reduced the kingdom of God to a political nation, but they also embraced a delayed eschatology worldview (i.e. God’s kingdom is in the future somewhere and Christians just have to wait until it comes).
The second article (Jan 3rd at Religion & Politics) talked about an “attitude shift about Kingdom theology” in which the kingdom of God changed from being a “religiously pure…and established after a period of apocalyptic upheaval to a vision of communities of mutual concern that support diverse forms of human flourishing in the here-and-now.” In other words, this article defined Kingdom Theology either as a spiritual kingdom (i.e. spiritual salvation with a future kingdom coming after the 2nd return of Jesus) or a social justice kingdom (i.e. ethics and doing good stuff).
It is because of articles like these that I wrote my book as the kingdom of God is larger and more complex than any reductionism. In the book, I talk about six different reductionism that Jesus followers fall into:
- The kingdom becomes the church
- The kingdom becomes a nation
- The spiritualizing of the Kingdom
- The kingdom becomes a doctrine
- The kingdom is already here
- The kingdom is all about me
While it is tempting to reduce the kingdom, we must hold on to the tension that comes with living between the ages.