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Theology and Apologetics

The Idle Church

I recently heard a sentiment that sounded something like this: If we really believed that Jesus could fix this world, we would become beacons of hope to those around us.

This is also paired with the idea that as Christians, following tragedies such as the recent Orlando shooting, don’t have a responsibility to “fix” situations like this. Instead, we should just be feeling grief, bearing the emotional and spiritual burdens of the affected, and direct people towards Jesus.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem in the “Triumphal Entry”, the Jews looked to Him not because they wanted to feel a vague sense of hope for eventual spiritual victory in Him, but because they were in bondage and they wanted to be free. They had expectations of Jesus. They wanted a new king because the king they had was a Roman collaborator who sold them out. The Roman regime brutally enforced Roman law upon Jewish culture. The Sanhedrin (the ruling Jewish temple class) was corrupt and making money off the poor. Jesus entered Jerusalem with his unarmed entourage and palm-branch procession just a short while after the Roman prefect, Pilate, entered with a cohort of legionnaires. The Jews wanted to show the rulers of Jerusalem that they wanted a regime change and Jesus was the object of that demonstration.

If one were to read just a few verses past the description of the Triumphal Entry in Matthew, they would read about Jesus’ first act in Jerusalem: turning over the moneychanger tables at the temple. The moneychangers were basically the 1st century equivalent of those ATM’s right outside cash-only places that charge a $5 usage fee, but being the only ATM in town in this case. The moneychangers and sellers of overpriced sacrificial animals were the grease for the Roman-Jewish collaboration machine, monetizing the allowance of ongoing Jewish religious practice.

For Jesus to attack this was a direct assault on the Sanhedrin, the Jewish King, and the Roman occupation. It was not a very diplomatic act, but it made a huge political statement. In order to advocate for the oppressed, Jesus needed to do something for the oppressed and not just teach, but live out a better way of life. For Jesus, the Kingdom of God meant the oppressed are the priority and to live in that Kingdom is to serve people, especially those who are oppressed.

He was then killed by the system of violence He sought to attack; crucified as one of thousands of Jews sharing the same fate.

Today, at a Sunday morning pulpit, you can hear Christian teaching about Jesus being the only one who will fix tragedies in the world. For many, the coming of the Kingdom of God means Jesus coming back to the world to destroy it or revert it back to its created state (the state in which the “Fall of man” occurred in the first place and a state to which the Bible explicitly states we will never return). I’ve often heard the sentiment that this world is so messed up that Jesus needs to come and fix (aka destroy) it.

God didn’t share that sentiment apparently, because He loved our messed up world so much that He gave us Jesus to try to redeem it. And we killed Him. It was a tragedy. If the system of violence could kill the incarnation of God on earth, how is pursuing something like the Kingdom of God even possible? What’s the point if death remains the final answer?

But, as the early church knew, death was not the final answer, because Jesus being alive was the final answer.

We have our answer and we know what Kingdom we want to see. Yet, when people do nothing about it, when they rely on their holy status or self-righteousness, the kingdom of hell is the only one we will see.

We are not beacons of hope, not because of the degree of our faith, but because we do nothing.

Our hope has become about our individual destinies and not the hope for the world that Jesus brings. We have placed it in the imperial systems of violence that protect our comfortable lives. We have participated in those systems of violence. The oppressed in the US will often see the church and the religious right as a source of oppression rather than one for hope.

So keep on doing nothing. Keep on thinking the only “fix” is the return of Jesus heralding the end of the world. Keep on believing and feeling emotion like it makes a difference to anyone but you. Just know that you are making a mockery of Jesus and you are being mocked for it.

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About Josh Poland

Worship Leader, Economist, Musician, Martial Artist

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