A Truth that Describes

“He sent the message to the Israelites, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all.” (Acts 10:36)

Jesus is Lord of all and has no need for Caesar’s throne over Rome. If so, Jesus’s followers would seek a violent overthrow of the government. The problem isn’t that Jesus is a rival for Caesar’s throne, but that Caesar idolatrously seeks to be Lord in the place of King Jesus. The problem, as Luke narrates Luke/Acts, isn’t that the followers of King Jesus seek to place Jesus on Caesar’s throne (that would be sedition) but that Caesar views himself in such a way that he is usurping Jesus’s throne.

The truth Caesar believes is that Rome is the hope for the world. The truth the Church believes is that only Jesus is the hope of the world. (Col. 1:27)

The truth Caesar believes is that the Roman empire is the most exceptional kingdom in the world and that all other people from all other nations should submit to its authority. The truth the Church believes is that the most exceptional kingdom in the world is the kingdom of God and through King Jesus they have become a different kind of nation charged to take its truth into all other nations. (1 Peter 2:9)

The truth Caesar believes is that Rome is worthy of all allegiance and requires all people, including Christians, pledge allegiance to the flag of Rome. The truth the Church believes is that the pledge of allegiance requires unconditional devotion. For them the only thing to which they can unconditionally offer their devotion is King Jesus and His Kingdom. (1 Peter 3:21)

Truth not only describes, it prescribes, proclaims and provokes. When Truth is embodied and proclaimed it becomes a peaceful protest against the oppressive false narratives of consumerism, anxiety, fear, violence, and self preservation that dominate society. This is where Truth is met with antagonism. When the protest of truth is confronted with antagonism it cannot be allowed to devolve to a greater antagonism making truth a weapon. Instead, Truth should meet all those in disagreement with a posture of reconciliation and continue onward because that is how God has revealed Truth. This is because the Christian Tradition teaches us that Truth isn’t just a fact, statement of reality, or a position, it is a Person, the God Incarnate, King Jesus.

Truth, whatever one means by the notion, creates movements, life-giving movements or death-dealing movements, because truth forms a narrative—an understanding of how the world works and what kind of life can live up to it. Therefore, truth writes for every person within its reach a script for living. This script introduces to us the people, places and things we need in our lives to make life work according to the truth we have come to believe.

Jesus as our Truth has written for us a script. Will we spend our days studying and rehearsing His script or will we spend them studying and rehearsing the script handed to us by America? We must choose.

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Clement of Alexandria Has Something to Say

Wise words from an early Church leader, Clement of Alexandria (CE 150–215).

“Let, then, the Athenian follow the laws of Solon, and the Argive those of Phoroneus, and the Spartan those of Lycurgus: but if you enroll yourself as one of God’s people, heaven is your country, God your lawgiver. And what are the laws? “You shall not kill…you shall not bear false witness; you shall love the Lord your God.” (Exodus 20:13-16; Deuteronomy 6:5) And the complements of these are those laws of reason and words of sanctity which are inscribed on men’s hearts: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

~ Chapter 10, Answer to the Objection of the Heathen, that It Was Not Right to Abandon the Customs of Their Fathers.

These are words all Jesus-followers should hear. Either way, the actions of our lives will validate or invalidate the words of our lips (and social media posts).

By God’s Spirit we can be faithful. Let’s choose faithfulness, especially now.

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Today in 1963

Today we remember how in 1963 almost 200,000 people participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. We remember Dr. King’s famous speech, “I have a Dream.”

Today I remember the context of this moment. I see how King is celebrated today but was despised by most White people then. I see how his protests are lauded today as peaceful and bold, but lauded as riotous, unpatriotic, and unchristian back then. I see how it’s all misremembered.

I see how Dr. King was labeled a communist, despite his belief that, “Communism and Christianity are fundamentally incompatible” (King, Strength to Love, 94). I see how a 17,000 page report by the FBI branded him, “The most dangerous man in America.” I see how those who supported civil rights were suspected as communist, too. I see how at the time of his assassination polls showed that 75% of Americans disproved of his work.

I see how what King wrote, preached, and performed didn’t matter. I see how back then, like now, the truth doesn’t matter. I see how back then, like now, political posturing by those who disapprove matters more. I see how back then, like now, black lives didn’t matter. I see how back then, like now, White supremacy is our seductive companion. I see how back then, like now, White people would never admit it to be true. I see how back then, like now, this is one way the reign of sin and death works in a nation.

A few years from now my son will see also. He’ll look back at the files I’m making for him—FB posts, memes, articles, blogs—and will remember that this is how White supremacy works. In the future we’ll look back at history and celebrate the Black prophets and those who support them. In the future we’ll rewrite the stories of the past so that when racial injustice rises again to the surface, the opposition from White society will rise with it. My son will look back and remember that White society loves Black prophets, but only when they are dead.

It’s odd that many White people celebrating King are those who oppose or belittle what’s happening today. It’s troubling that there’s such a disconnect with civil rights history that some say, “But today is different. The protests and riots are different. It’s unchristian…”

No, it’s the same story with different characters. But we are all entitled to our own opinion. Thankfully facts are stubborn things.

Most tragic of all, just over two weeks after this day in 1963 White supremacists murdered four Black girls in the 16th St. Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham.

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Death

Death is not of God.

Ever.

Death is the enemy of God’s reign at work in the world (1 Cor. 15:26).

Promoting death, justifying death, validating death, celebrating death–this is not the way of God’s Kingdom.

Death is participation in the reign of sin and death.

Christ followers, let’s be sure we are participating in the right kingdom.

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The Wisdom of Love

Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. ~ Lev. 19:18- Love your neighbor as yourself. ~ the Lord, Matt. 22:39

Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law. ~ Paul, Rom. 13:10

Indeed, if you fulfill the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. ~ James, James 2:8

The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. ~ John, 1 Jn. 4:8

If Jesus is your Lord then this applies to you like it does me. Now we must ask ourselves some questions.

If I would not want it said or done to me, why would I want it said or done to my neighbor? Is that love?

If I would want it said or done for me, why would I not say it or do it for my neighbor? Is that not love?

We can baptize our ideologies in Christian rhetoric and dress it in Church clothes, but if it does not result in love our ideology is empty and naked. Choose the issue, cause, or categorical description applied to our neighbors. Don’t let “neighbor” be an abstract description. Let it be specific and concrete. Here’s a few—not all—just a few: The poor. The orphan. The elderly. Gender equality. Black lives matter. BIPOC. LGBTQIA. These are some of the divisive issues, causes, or categorical descriptions applied to our neighbors.

Is what I am saying or doing what I would want said or done to me if I were this neighbor?

Maybe the problem is with love and we no longer know what it looks like. If so, let’s look to Love Incarnate and ask, “Can what I am saying or doing be seen in what Jesus said and did? Can what I believe about my neighbor be seen in what Jesus said and did?”

We can give our answer and carry on with our actions, or we can carry on with all our baptisms, desperately baptizing our labels, theories, our upbringing, our way of life we are comfortable with, and other misguided doctrines. We can baptize it all in the waters of American ideology and partisan politics once, twice, or three times if we like, but they will still arise from the waters “twice the son of hell” (Matt. 23:15).

After being labeled a glutton, drunk, and friend of law-breakers by his neighbors, Jesus said, “wisdom is proven right by her deeds” (Matt. 11:19). The Lord’s just providence will see to it. Now or later, when “the Son of Man comes in his glory” and sits “on his glorious throne” to “gathers all the nations” to “separate the sheep from the goats,” the confession we made with our lips will be proven by our lives (Matt. 25:31ff).

Let’s be wise and choose love.

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