Jesus, our prototypical Subversive, was a culture-changing, foot-washing troublemaker! He insists that playing on his team entails more than having his name on the front of our jerseys. When we say that we aspire to be like him are we just talking about his clean-talking, drug-free, conservative-voting niceness? Or do we mean that we’re following him as strangers into this earthly foreign land with the goal of subverting the dominant culture as servants?
I’ve been contrasting this so-called “Servant Subversion” to some commonly practiced survival strategies of many Christian exiles in our Babylonian world. In the last post I made the comparison with the Fortification tactic. In this post I’d like to take on the strategy of Exploitation of Babylon.
Super Faith prosper-now-Christians tend to treat this world as “a planet for the taking.” Out of one side of their mouth they complain about the evils of Babylon and out of the other side they claim its riches as their rightful inheritance as the privileged people of God. God allegedly included in their salvation package a no-limit gift card to consume as much as they can without regard to the needs of the earth or their fellow earthlings.
On the other hand, “Babylon” (code for the world system into which we’ve been exiled) oppresses Jesus’ followers, and depending on how we relate to it, this demon-haunted planet may either be soul damaging or a detoxifying discipline for our eternal good. In other words, like boot camp, it can either make or break us. Jesus asked the Father not to lift us out of this place (before our time) but sanctify us in it. God put us here to improve us and to use us to influence Babylonians. We’re here for our own good and the good of those around us. So to expect Babylon to be our personal cash cow, to supply us with power and wealth is bass-ackwards!
We’re here, not for our own benefit, but for the glory of God and the good of people. In his letter Jeremiah told the exiled Jews that if they would carry blessing along with them to Babylon it would serendipitously return to them. Seek the shalom of the city to which the Lord has carried you into exile. Pray for it, because if it is shalomed, you too will have shalom.
Christian American Dream seekers tend to exploit Babylon rather than serve it. And when it eventually implodes and has no more to offer them “the merchants of the earth who grew rich from her excessive luxuries and they see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her.” Don’t mistake this for the mourning of the repentant at the judgment of God. This is actually the sorrow over the depletion of their stock portfolio! They’ve been in bed with Babylon, a toxic temptress, and when she fails to deliver they fall apart – reminiscent of those who leapt from their Wall Street roofs when the stock market crashed.
We’re commissioned here as missionaries not as mere consumers. What would you think of a missionary relocating to a foreign country just for the wealth and power? Atrocious! Wait. It’s been done! I am personally familiar with missionaries who’ve gone to Africa, garnered a good support base, and created their own exclusive opulent missionary compound outside the poverty line. Their missionary work resembled more of a missionary tourism than the incarnational approach that Jesus modeled and passed on to his servant subversives.
Our purpose on earth is not to take advantage of Babylon but offer ourselves to be used by God for its benefit. Instead of giving in to it we give ourselves to it and when it costs us something we’re not surprised. This is the path of the Servant Subversive. Our version of success is modeled after Jesus who came to serve not be served. We succeed when we serve. We’re here to make Babylon better not expect it to make us richer. In a word, this world is not ours to use but ours to serve.
One example of this is how we relate to the physical planet. As Christians, we ought to be on the front lines of creation care. If we truly believe all that the Bible says about our earth and how everything that God made was “good,” we should be eager to manage well our sacred trust until he returns to make all things new. Adam and Eve, after all, were the original environmentalists. Because Jesus sustains creation, a planet destroying trajectory is at odds with his purposes. Oil spills, deforestation, and pollution are an insult to his design and an assault on his creative goodness.
Many Christians are openly skeptical of the reality of any so-called environmental crisis. Such concerns are often viewed as liberal propaganda or just plain irrelevant since this earth will be destroyed after the millennium. I suggest that efforts to care for, preserve, and protect the environment, should be led by Christians. As something borrowed and held in trust we’re not entitled to exploit it. If the New Agers have been able to make environmentalism an issue of their own, it’s only because the Church has failed to make it an important part of its own agenda. Pantheists and atheists have co-opted what should have been the concern of believers in a Personal Creator and we can’t afford to forfeit the lead to failing ideologues in such areas so central to our original commission to be stewards of God’s garden.
It’s not for the sake of “Mother Earth” but for the glory of Father God that we would refuse to exploit the house he gave us. Respect and care for trees is not the same as worshipping them! Since everything he made is “good” we should be eager to be the good guardians of it until he returns to make all things new. Just because a so-called “tree hugger” is for it doesn’t mean we have to be against it! As faithful servant-stewards we can’t afford to recklessly misuse the world around us. Since the “earth is the Lord’s” it’s not ours to trash. If your parents give you a car for graduation they expect you to maintain it and not drive it into the ground or kill people with it.
“… like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.” (Matthew 25)
Our financial, environmental, spiritual, intellectual, resources and more are trusts from the Creator, gifts to be maintained and invested for the glory of God and good of people. When Babylon implodes and the New Jerusalem takes its place he will assess our relative success or failure as stewards. “Good and faithful servants” will receive the “well done!”
Next, we’ll contrast servant subversion with the “domination” approach to exile… In the meantime, what are your thoughts?