Christian Politics, round 4: Power & Weakness

I’ve been told that there are two subjects you never bring up at a dinner party: politics and religion.  This series of posts combines those taboo topics, potentially creating the perfect conversational hurricane.  But I’m happy to report that most of you have conducted yourselves in a civil manner, bringing up tough, thoughtful questions and conversing in a Christlike manner.  For that, thanks.

We’re going through 1 Corinthians in our faith group on Sundays.  Last week, in studying 1 Cor. 9, we stumbled upon the oft recited but seldom understood Pauline passages toward the end of the chapter:

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Someone insightfully made the point that in verse 22, Paul doesn’t balance out his statement about becoming weak to win the weak by saying, “and to the strong I became strong.”  One would think he’d do this, but he doesn’t.  He makes specific mention of weakness and becoming weak, implying that in weakness, we best share in the blessings of the gospel. (it says similar things elsewhere in the NT)

Someone else brought up that this passage mirrors what Paul says about Jesus in Philippians 2: that Jesus “made himself nothing,” “made himself a servant,” “became obedient to death … on a cross” and was therefore “exalted to the highest place.”  This is the most orthodox image of Jesus that we have … that of God made flesh / humble / weak / servant, and that of self-sacrificial love.  What a powerful thought! (on a related note, check out my friend Mark’s post about Jesus: Enemy of the State … good stuff)

It seems to me that between clamoring to elect the right kind of king to create the society we want and jockeying for positions of power in Washington D.C., Christians on the left and the right have lost focus of this most central of Christian doctrine.  That in the kingdom of God, small is big.  Weak is strong.  Poor is rich.  Humble service brings exultation. Mustard seeds can move mountains.

And so on, and so forth.

What if political action was prophetic, not just challenging the issues that oppose the kingdom of God but also the very systems and processes that do as well?  What if, instead of engaging in a broken system to enact miniscule change, we began to utilize our God-given “prophetic imagination” (thanks, Walter Brueggeman) to think up creative, subversive political statements and action?  What if our very lifestyles were a prophetic political statement to our neighborhoods, cities, and the empire in which we reside?

I ate lunch with my good friend Brian today.  We have lunch once a week, usually, and often wind up talking about some aspect of the kingdom of God.  Today, naturally, we talked about the Christian political imagination.  He mentioned the fact that lots of books have been written recently and even conferences held about why men aren’t interested in church.  What if, he suggested, men aren’t interested in church or Christianity because churches don’t do anything exciting?  What if men (and I would add women to the mix here as well) desire action, adventure, risk — even discomfort — in a community of faith?  Not to say this kind of lifestyle would be popular or easy or win massive converts, but I think a sense of mission, calling, adventure, action, change — whatever active word you want to put there — is just what the church needs.

Indeed, what if the life of the Christian was anything but safe pew-sitting, but was a radical, prophetic, POLITICAL display for all the world to see?

Where can I sign up for that?


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