The Christian faith is about revolutionary spirit.
I’ve been thinking the past few weeks about the “language of faith.” Since the election last month… actually, it’s not just the election. Since I heard the first name in the long list of unarmed (mostly) black (mostly) men that have been shot by police, since I first heard the acronym ISIS and witnessed their takeover of places in Iraq that my friends died in an effort to make and keep safe… since I heard about a school named Sandy Hook… since I watched my own denomination stall and drag their feet in recognizing that Confessing and practicing Christians are actually Confessing and practicing Christian (no matter their sexuality) and then watched the larger American church enthusiastically approve an vile and evil man (and a vile and evil administration, by all accounts) to the leadership of our country…
In light of all of this, I have grown increasingly resistant and sometimes even hostile to the language that people of my faith have chosen to use to counter these very difficult times in our nation and world.
“God is in control.” (Or “Christ is on the throne”, or other dull variations.)
“Pray for our nation/world.”
“Love trumps hate.”
It’s not that the sentiments are bad. It’s certainly not that the people are bad. But, when we live in a time where very real and explicit evil and injustice are openly approved of and practiced, the language of faith seems inadequate. And, people of faith seem irrelevant.
I have sat in despair over the past month, mostly unable to even attend church, unable to pray, unable to read and meditate on the Scriptures. I have lamented that we seem to have no more Amoses or Moseses. No John the Baptists. No Samuels or Nathans. No Esthers, no Deborahs, no Miriams.
I know that they are there. I see them in the pulpits and the protest lines. But, they seem so few, when those who confess Christ are so many.
As I sit in my cave, I have had an opportunity to help some folks closer to home. Most of the time, I don’t even see those small things as ministry. They fall into the category of “Stuff that I do because I can.” But, I realized this morning (after getting an unexpected hug from one of these folks) that this “stuff” is revolutionary.
It is an incredible act of resistance – in a world that has declared its approval of avarice, infidelity, and hate – to live your life believing that you are not the most important person around. It is an act of upheaval to place the needs of others above your own needs or comforts.
The revolution really does begin in love.
But, it’s not the soft and safe love that so many churches try to sell – the kind of love that makes nice and whispers dull and useless platitudes to hurting and needy people.
It is not a love that just prays for those in need. It is a love that aggressively pursues the hurting, helpless, and hopeless.
It is not a love that soft-pedals on topics of grace and forgiveness. It is a love that is militant in its pursuit of reconciliation, justice, and peace.
It is not a love that simply “trumps” hate, or a love that passively “wins” against hate. It is a love that rebukes hate.
I believe that more prophets will rise up in the coming days, that the Spirit of the Lord will fall upon many, and that we will once again speak the unvarnished and unapologetic truth to the principalities and powers that threaten the fundamentals of our confession of Christ as Lord.
But, I also see the unlikely prophets that are already in the streets. They are feeding, clothing, and sheltering the homeless. They are welcoming the refugees and the immigrants. They are protecting – with their very bodies – the bodies of protestors and victims of police violence. They are speaking out and writing on opinion sites and columns. William Barber II, Tony Campolo, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Sarah Bessey… the “lesser knowns”, like my friend the local campus minister and my Quaker cousin.
When I started this blog, I named it “The Unlikely Evangelist”, because I felt that “evangelism” was so far outside my calling that I was an unlikely person to spread the Good News (also, it’s catchy.) But, I realized today that it’s not me that’s “unlikely”. The Bible is full of men – flawed, reluctant men – just like me, just as unlikely. What the name really means to me today, right now is that the Good News is so damn unlikely. We live in a world that is so harsh, so hostile, so self-centered, so violent, so unjust… that it is nearly inconceivable that a Prince of Peace, a Lord that comes explicitly for the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, that Lord is the physical expression of the Creator of the Universe.
As I am fond of saying, it’s a dangerous Gospel. It’s a radical Gospel. It’s a Gospel that leaves no prisoners, that demands revolution and does not allow for stagnation. It’s a Gospel that requires such a drastic and dramatic upheaval of the established social order, of the status quo, that the faint of heart shouldn’t even approach it.
It’s a Gospel that can only be told, retold, and described using dangerous, revolutionary language.
I leave you with a passage of Scripture that spoke volumes to me this morning, especially in the season of Advent. It uses the kind of language that we so desperately need to reclaim: the Scriptural, the prophetic, and the revolutionary.
“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan–The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.“
The revolution begins in love. The revolution begins in peace. The revolution begins in justice.