“The light of the world does not withdraw, saying “good riddance” to godless darkness. The salt of the earth does not mock rotting meat. Where it can, it saves and seasons. Where it can’t, it weeps.”
Now that we’ve contrasted Servant Subversion with fortification, exploitation, domination, and accommodation, let’s examine one “last” strategy that Christians use to survive our exile in a Babylon: Abdication.
I indicated earlier that someday we’re going get hell out of this world, but in the meantime, we have to do our best to get as much hell OUT OF this world as we can! Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Most people, and Christians in particular, are thermometers that register the temperature of majority opinion, not thermostats that transform and regulate the temperature of society.” In other words, we’ve become culture followers instead of culture formers.
It seems to me that a large percentage of supposed Christians have chosen abdication as their strategy for surviving the spiritually toxic environment of this world. They throw in the towel of concern, compassion, and subversion. Since it’s just easier to not care, they surrender.
Expecting this world to be a friendly environment for Christians is a snipe hunt. “In this world you will have trouble,” Jesus said. “If they hated me, they’ll hate you.” What could be clearer? Since we’re alien residents in a foreign country we shouldn’t be shocked when our values are not respected, and even reviled.
But remember, our deportation to this devil-saturated land is not without a purpose. “As the Father sent me,” said Jesus, “so I send you.” Our deportment in this wicked world is a divinely deliberate deployment. God has an objective for our exile that is both remedial and redemptive. As strangers in a foreign land, we’re here for our own good and the good of those around us. He put us here to improve us as well as to use us to influence Babylonians!
If triumphalism is initiated by pride and ends in disappointment, spiritual passivism is initiated by fear and ends in a pathetic expression of the kingdom of God. The former wishes for more than is promised and the latter hopes for too little and gets nothing.
“Why try to improve the present prison if release is at hand? Why oil the wheels of a machine that will soon plunge over a cliff? That is precisely the effect created to this day by some devout Christians who genuinely believe that “salvation” has nothing to do with the way the present world is ordered.” N.T. Wright
In his letter to the Jewish exiles (Jeremiah 29) God was, in effect, telling them to improve their prison. Like us, they were strangers in their strange land for a lifetime (70 years). So, as citizens of heaven and residents in Babylon, if there’s injustice we address it. Where shalom is missing we bring it. If something’s broken here, while we might not be able to completely fix the whole world, we do our best to repair our piece of it. We don’t just pine away till we get snatched up to heaven. We live here the best we know how in order to help our fellow prisoners, along with the guards and wardens wherever we can. Brian Zahnd wrote, “Salvation is a restoration project, not an evacuation project!”
Doesn’t it make sense that if the prison improves, serendipitously, so do our lives in it? A rising tide lifts all the boats in the harbor. The problem is, we Christians tend to spend our lives striving only to improve our own lives, and in the end, neither our world nor we are buoyed.
In the film The Last Castle, a court-martialed U.S. Army Lieutenant General played by Robert Redford was serving a life sentence in a military prison run by a corrupt and murderous warden. Injustice was rampant and though he did his best to keep to himself and stay out of the limelight, the General couldn’t stand by and watch as he and his fellow prisoners were tortured. He paid the ultimate price but eventually made the prison a better place for all. Sounds like Someone else I know! That Someone instructed us to die to our own self-serving agendas and give ourselves to making Babylon a better place for Babylonians and captives alike.
Again I quote N.T. Wright: “We cannot get off the hook of present responsibility, as many Christians try to do . . . by declaring that the world is currently in such a mess and there’s nothing that can be done about it until the Lord returns.”
A lot of Christians seem to be in a rush just to get out of this place. I get that and am as anxious as anyone I know for Jesus to return so I can to go to heaven and see him face to face. But I remember how Jesus prayed, “Don’t take them out of the world, but sanctify them in it…” I wonder if many cry “Maranatha!” not so much for the sake of being nearer with the One they love but so they can watch Babylon burn! They anticipate the ruin of the Antichrist with more glee than the return of Christ. In the spirit of the Brothers Thunder, who requested a carpet-bombing of the Samaritans, I hear “Christians” celebrate the annihilation of people that God loves. There’s no doubt that justice will appear and Christ’s martyrs will be vindicated, but in the meantime let’s plan to stay around long enough to improve Babylon.
So unpack your bags, get involved in Babylon, and reach Babylonians for Jesus!
Until next time… Well, let’s see if there is a next time… D.V. (Who knows what that means?)