This post is appearing on “the green room” which is a blog by the students and alumni of Eternity Bible College. These are my opinions and in no way does what I write in this series exclusively express the positions of Eternity Bible College’s students, staff or alumni. The hope is that if there is disagreement, that we could do what Christians ought to do and dialogue in a healthy, scripturally based manner.
This series, The Great American Love Affair comes from a current Eternity student, Stephen McMahon.
In my last post, I talked a little bit about my background with American Nationalism and how the Gospel confronts these issues. Today I want to dive a little more into what a Gospel-centered perspective is on some of the issues I previously introduced…
The process of refinement is necessary for all Christians on a daily basis. Addressing generally long accepted issues like Nationalism, racism, consumerism, and oppression that clash with the Gospel can be awkward and painful, but is very much needed to grow in Christ-likeness. When confronting a problem, a better solution must be given.
Luckily, we don’t have to speculate on what Jesus would want. Our literal, political King shows us exactly how to live this out, and is demonstrated by His life as described in the Gospels. Jesus had many followers in his life but the closest to Him were His 12 disciples. One of these men was Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, Jesus knew would deliver Him to His death at the hands of the Romans. Jesus himself submitted to His betrayer and His captors all the way to death. One of the 12 at the time of the betrayal reacted just as most of us would. Peter drew his sword to defend Jesus, (and probably himself) from harm and cut off a guard’s ear. Jesus’ response in Matthew 26: 52-54 is the evidence that the kingdom He is the King of is not defined by the sword, but by submission. In the text, Jesus says if the sword were the way of His kingdom, he would have called down legions of angels to save Him and destroy His oppressors instantly.
Concerning the oppressed, Jesus also shows us the way of the kingdom in His life. Jesus’ interactions with the poor, diseased, and outcasts were always defined with love and care. He healed the sick and fed the hungry and calls all those who choose to follow Him to do the same. Jesus was constantly being mocked and challenged because of the company He kept. As previously stated in part 1, many people do help the poor and the sick but the difference is in His complete devotion to these people. Looking at Nationalistic American churches, it is hard to see the same commitment as we see in Jesus. Our individualistic society condemns those who won’t help themselves, and we subscribe to our humanistic, individualistic culture in the way we diagnose and look for the quick fix solution to these issues. If you’re sick, we have a pill for that. If you’re poor, get a job. If you’re an addict, there’s a program for you. Jesus’ prescription is holistic and calls for the church to step in and sacrifice our comforts and desires and to surround, support and help those in need. Was there any agenda more important to Jesus than loving people?
The ultimate temptress, money.
It’s pretty clear that Americans have a love affair with material things and it is these love affairs that end up dropping us into a selfish, individualistic, material-chasing mindset. Materialism/money is one of the biggest detriments to a Christian life. The pursuit of it will literally determine the path of one’s life and the choices they make. The idea of security or pleasure through money, or what it can buy, drives people to ignore all else and pursue a life of faith in their own work. We all “need” money to survive, to function on a basic level. What we do to attain it, or when we go beyond “need” to “want” and sustenance to gross decadence is when it becomes the idol and guide of our lives. The spread of the Gospel should be the most important thing in a believer’s life, and money is not evil, but when the acquisition of wealth derails or distracts one from the pursuit of the Gospel, and our focus is turned inward, it becomes a major problem. When we choose to build our kingdom, we become self-focused.
Jesus’ Kingdom, not America’s
Jesus’ kingdom is a kingdom of justice; justice that is redemptive, not retributive. It is a holistic healing that meets people where they are, in their mess and brokenness, regardless of their situation. Jesus calls for His followers to care for the hurting, broken, lowliest members of our society: the outcasts. James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Jesus’ plan for the broken can be seen in His life and how he treated them. He was constantly feeding the hungry, welcoming the children, and healing the sick. Even though we don’t see these miracles in the same dramatic fashion today, the command to care for the broken is still the same. The church in America spends an excess amount on buildings and programming and coffee. What if this money was used to buy food to feed the poor or medical care to help heal the sick? What if children’s ministry actually meant ministering to the broken children of the world by selling our stuff that we don’t need in order to start a massive adoption movement?
Consider this: “1.5 billion followers of Christ own two-thirds of the world’s resources and have an average yearly income more than three times that of non-Christians. Not all Christians, however, are materially wealthy. Almost 200 million live in absolute poverty, while 750 million of their fellow Christians live in affluence. Although most well-off Christians support relief, on average they give less than 3 percent of their income to Christian ministries. If they were to give even a tithe, Barrett concludes that “to a large extent, the global sharing by Christians of money, wealth, property, and goods could solve most of the problems of famine, poverty, disease, unemployment, dangerous water supply and so on”. (Hiebert, Anthropological Insights for Missionaries, 292)
Gospel allegiance means allegiance to Jesus alone
The Gospel is the good news. It is the way to true fulfilling life. The Gospel offers freedom from worries and cares of this world, healing the sick, salvation for the oppressed and vindication for the guilty. When individual Christians and the church preach a message of salvation and freedom without practicing the realities that Jesus calls His followers to, this message is dulled and does not translate to the hearer. Faith without works is dead. James 2:14-26 shows how intimately tied together works and faith are. These are not works to earn salvation but they are works that show the reality of our faith and how the Gospel is lived.
When the church gives its full allegiance to Christ the King, priorities will change. When our securities are founded in Christ, we are free to love our enemies in an extreme way. The love and pursuit of money turn us into self-focused consumerists and Jesus asks us to give up our desires, plans, and use our money for the good of others. We can’t serve God and money. It is up to us as Christians to choose this day whom we will serve.