Archives For Jesus is Victor!

Like you, I’m wrestling with the COVID-19 changes imposed upon us. We’re adapting, steady, and we’re focused. We’re still homeschooling. We’re still reading the news in one hand, and reading the Bible with the other. We’re engaged, determined not to let the bad news sneak past us, or our prayers. We’re also determined not to let the barrage of repetitive, useless speculative analysis paralyze us.

In 1939, Karl Barth, who had long since been exiled by the Nazis for refusing to sign the Hitler Oath, and for opposing the deification of the State, wrote,

‘the Church prefers to suffer persecution at the hands of the State, which has become a “beast out of the pit of the abyss,” rather than take part in the deification of Caesar.’[i]

It’s in the vein of this context that we’re determined to not give in to fear and its consistent demand for absolute fealty. We’re steadfast in our commitment to the current treatment plan, but defiant in our “no” to this silent freedom killer. The virus, its source, and the exercise of political power – through a centralisation of government ruling by fiat, without the limitation of existing checks and balances – require a line in the sand drawn between us, and the totalitarianism attached to it.

Despite fear and powerlessness Good Friday remains Good News.

Its events do not show the clash of two kingdoms, and two kings, they show the affirmation of one King and His kingdom. Pilate asks, “are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus replies, “You have said so.” (Mark 15:2) And yet, Jesus ‘confirms Pilate’s claim to “power” over Him, as power given from above.’ (Barth) Pilate does not release Jesus. He crucifies Him. The confirmation of Christ as King is affirmed by Pilate’s mockery and Jesus Christ’s death sentence: here hangs, pierced, beaten, spat on, speared and abused, ‘Jesus, the King of the Jews.’ (Matthew 27:37).

The place where God makes His stand before all humanity is on a cross for all humanity. There is no greater line in the sand between humanity and sin – the corruption of absolute power, and the rejection of true freedom, than God’s revelation in Jesus Christ – Christ crucified and resurrected. Whether that absolute be a seemingly unbeatable microscopic parasite or seemingly unbreakable bloated bureaucracy.

Barth writes that Jesus and Pilate (Caesar’s proxy in Judea) confronted one another. What we see is the ‘homelessness of the Church in this age’, and ‘in its demonic form, the State’s authority as the “power of the present age.”

In yielding the Gospel the Church brings to the State a theological critique against all superstition, ideas, imaginations and ideologies, and therefore judgement on any manifestation of an imbalance of power. It can do this because ‘judgement begins with God’s household’ (1 Peter 4:17).

The Church is as a watchman, ‘knowing that it is responsible for the State and for Caesar, and it finally manifests this responsibility, through “the prophetic service of the Church as Watchman,” in its highest form by praying for the State and for its officials in all circumstances.’ (Barth) Both the Church and the State are under the Lordship of Christ.

There was no false dichotomy between secular and sacred. Civic duty for Christians is, as it has always been, holding themselves as individuals, and the Government to its role, function and purpose, accountable, under the Divine Lordship of Christ.

Right through the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’ Kingship is at work. Healing and exorcism, announce His kingdom drawn near, His kingdom to come; his actions calling us to rethink and repent – for ‘the Kingdom of God is near.’

As Ethan the Ezrahite wrote, ‘God rules over the surging seas; waves rise, He stills them.’ (Psalm 89:9). The shock-waves of Christ’s kingship confirmed by the events of Good Friday, dark Saturday and Resurrection Sunday, spread His authority like a slow tsunami over the Pax Romana, past Rome’s powerful legions, liberating the hearts of the wounded, lame, repentant and humble. Christ’s just rule breaks like a wave over Church and State permeating both. The just who was judged becomes our just judge.

As things currently stand, we’ve had no reassurance from prominent politicians about how civil liberties will be safeguarded during the Coronavirus counter measures. We, the people, seem to be on a Shakespearean rodeo, living as Romeo, liberty as Juliet. There seem to be powerful forces at work to keep both separated, perhaps even on a permanent basis. But Shakespeare’s work isn’t just a tale of woe about oppressive forces that seek to keep man from woman, and woman from man, it’s a warning telling us not to give up hope.

Regardless of how dead liberty might appear to be, or how pathetically silent our leaders choose to remain. Regardless of how intimidated we are by the state flexing its muscles, prancing its ferocious might in our faces. Regardless of how we may suffer under the hands of those who make themselves the enemy of civil liberties, it’s because of Good Friday, we, who are raised in Christ, can say Good Friday, is still Good News.

Liberty may have been crucified, but liberty was liberated and lives yet still!

Though the state may flap and dance about, howl, breathe fire and brandish the sword, in a political thrust and parry against liberty, they cannot win. For although ‘it’s true that Jesus told His disciples to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. It [shouldn’t be forgotten that it] is God who declares what belongs to Caesar.’ [iii]

May God’s wisdom guide us, may His strength empower us, and with defiant humility, may we gratefully embrace the Light from which all true freedom breaks. For the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).

Happy Easter, folks!

Jesus is Victor!


References:

[i] Barth, K. Community, State, and Church, Wipf & Stock Publishers.

[ii] Barth, K. The Theology of John Calvin, Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[iii] Bell, G, 1940. Christianity & World Order, Penguin Classics.

First published on Caldron Pool, 10th April, 2020.

© Rod Lampard, 2020

Some time ago I took up a detailed exchange on twitter with a lady who had proudly stated that she was cutting out “hate the sin” from the phrase, ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’.  She was happily proclaiming her decision to stick with ‘’love the sinner’’ because this was apparently more biblical.

Her post won her a few retweets and likes, but I disagreed and gave good reasons for doing so. The biblical imperatives such as: “Let love be genuine, abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9) mean that there is a distinction between love for the sinner and sin. To remove the “hate the sin” clause is to leave too much room for  “love the sinner” to easily become “ignore the sin” or worse “love the sin as much as the sinner”.

The distinction between loving the sinner and hating the sin, is at the very core of Jesus Christ’s reconciliation of humanity with God. Without a separation  between sin and sinner grounded in God’s act in Jesus Christ, there can only be a further separation of the sinner from God. For sin separates the sinner from the Sinless. Only in Jesus Christ can the sinner be freed from sin and reconciled to God.

In a rebuttal to my response, an academic (I presume a theologian) proudly stepped in. He then decided to lecture me on the error of my ways.

In response, I brought up Bonhoeffer:

‘Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners! But it is the grace of the Gospel, which is so hard for the pious to understand, that it confronts us with the truth and says: You are a sinner, a great, desperate sinner; now come as the sinner that you are, to God who loves you. He wants you as you are; He does not want anything from you, as sacrifice, a work; he wants you alone.  You can hide nothing from God. The mask you wear before men will do you no good before Him […] He wants to be gracious to you. You can dare to be a sinner [dare to be who you really are before God; a sinner]. Thank God for that; He loves the sinner but Hates the sin.’ (Confession & Communion, Life Together, 1954)

My interlocutor huffed with pride. He said that he’d read everything of Bonhoeffer’s work and was sure that Bonhoeffer had never used the phrase. So I provided page, date, book title, chapter and verse. Then pointed out, “loving the sinner, hating the sin” isn’t something Bonhoeffer spoke as a one off. Bonhoeffer had also included it in The Cost of Discipleship,

‘May we be enabled to say ‘No’ to sin and ‘Yes’ to the sinner. May we withstand our foes, and yet hold out to them the Word of the gospel which woos and wins the souls of men.’ (p.xxxiv)

After I provided the reference which proved him wrong, he dismissed my thoughts and ended his correspondence. The lady maintained her position. Then had to have the last word by tweeting at me her reasons for doing so.

It will not make me popular, (because it didn’t) but standing by the exegetical accuracy of Bonhoeffer’s statements on the issue, is far safer ground than building an unbiblical ethic around subjective human ideas of God. Standing on what, where and in whom God reveals himself, is far safer ground than making deceptive theological statements which repaints Christianity as solely being about an ethic of “niceness”.

I’ll end this with Reinhold Niebuhr, who very aptly hinted at the same thing when he wrote:

‘A position of detachment destroys our responsibilities in life’s controversies for the sake of avoiding sinful corruptions of those responsibilities. We ought to be angry when wrong is done; but we must learn the difficult art of being angry without sinning.’
(R.Niebuhr, Discerning The Signs of the Times.)

References:

[i] Bonhoeffer, D. 1954. Life Together, HarperCollins Publishers

[ii] Bonhoeffer, D. 1934. Cost of Discipleship, SCM Press

[iii] Niebuhr, R. 1946. Discerning the Signs of the Times 

Artwork: John Martin, 1840 ‘Calvary’ 

In his discussion on ‘The Freedom of Man for God’, Karl Barth distinguishes between human triumphalism and ‘God’s triumph’[i]. Barth’s exposition asserts that human triumphalism stands against the God who triumphs.

Human triumphalism is both an active and passive denial of God.

Linked to works righteousness, it is a fanatical rejection of the Creators rights to His creation.

His Lordship is undermined, ignored and forgotten in order for humanity to assert their own. This act exemplifies itself in the form of ‘primal atheism’[ii]; humans reaching for God’s power whilst at the same time proclaiming that such a power only exists in a special few (mysticism) or does not exist at all (atheism).

In short, men and women seek to become lordless powers.

Examples of this can be seen in how some modern proponents utilise Religion or ideology to justify their rejection of God’s Lordship in Jesus Christ.

Via claims to superior, “inside” knowledge or the Darwinian excuse that the strong determine the treatment or mistreatment of the weak.

In the progressive quest to work for God, or alternatively ignore God, we find elements which seek emancipation from God.

Consequently, the biblical promise of a ‘newness of life’ (Romans 6:4) is replaced with a mystical fog or a reason induced cold pragmatism. Most often affirmed by an esoteric elitism who, hiding behind entitlement, choice, nature and good intentions, hypocritically end up forcing a tyrannical ‘denial of life’ upon humanity.

Ultimately, the charade is found wanting and sinful humanity is once again reminded of its tendency to parade darkness as light.

No matter how hard we try, we cannot apprehend that which can only be given to us.

Humanity remains unfree in the ignorance and futility of its quest to be free from the Creator, who has and still does, have a right to His creation. By enforcing His right the Creator appears as powerless. In mercy, He lowers Himself in order to raise us up.

‘Freedom to be for God is not a freedom which we have taken, but a freedom which God has given to us in His mercy’ [iii]

Our lack of  sensitivity and response to God’s approach i.e.: our lack of ‘receptivity to revelation through gratitude and humble recognition’[iv], leads to a rejection of God and His freedom.

Paul writes:

‘We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death He died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:10)

This in consequence means that ‘to be with God is to be in Christ’[v].

God’s triumph is God’s revelation which has been given in Jesus the Christ and is asserted in this time of grace by the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. In Christ, and only in Christ, is God’s triumph reconciled to human triumphalism.

From this point we stand and say “Jesus is the Victor”. From this point we abandon all questions that concern ourselves with what we have to do to be in God’s will, or win his approval. From this point we take up our true concern: the invitation into participation with what God has already done and is doing right now on our behalf.

As Barth noted:

God’s continued  presence in us and for us means a ‘state or position in which humans may find themselves, but only with amazement, only with gratitude, only in humble recognition of an accomplished fact…an earlier state is one of self-glorification and self-will. Apart from the triumph of God it would still be the state of humanity today. Marked again by forgetting or denying the triumph of God by seeing (and calling) the power of God on us and in us as anything other than the Holy Spirit’[vi]

References:

[i] Barth, K. 1938 Church Dogmatics I.II Hendrickson Publishers p.260

[ii] Ibid, p.321

[iii] Ibid, p.258

[iv] Ibid, p.260

[v] Ibid, p.258

[vi] Ibid, p.260

Image credit: Tim Marshall, Unsplash.com

IMG_0942Disarm evil. Defuse conflict.

Create boundaries.

Redefine toxic relationships.

Pursue peace.

What was, no longer is.

What now exists – the good that stands,

stands because of who Jesus Christ is, was and will always be.

Grace. Today, yesterday and forever.

– RL2015

Be Like a Seed…

April 23, 2014 — 1 Comment

 RISE UP

IMG_20140423_074145

despite the cynical.

Here is a truth I’ve wrestled with for sometime.

Rarely has it been part of the advice I have received. Usually it is far removed from the ”get over it” – ”move on” – ”it’s probably not as bad as you say”, discounting which arrives the moment you share a concern, or detail a particularly negative life experience that is left unresolved.

healing_signs of life

‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star and have come to worship him’ – Mt.2:1-2

Epiphany 2014