We Trust In God, Not What People Say About God
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?” Matthew 7:15-16
This might seem like an odd thing for a preacher to say, and I’m going to say it anyway: DO NOT trust my words about God. They are no more accurate on their own than are horoscopes in the newspaper. You are not being called to be my disciples, you are called to be Christ Jesus’ disciples. My words and reflections on Scripture are offered as invitations to consider the power and promise of salvation and redemption through Jesus. They are not TRUE, though, unless they speak of God’s truth in your life.
I have become painfully aware that much of contemporary Christian theology does not resonate with my understandings of the Gospel of Christ. Upon further reflection, I see that there are very good reasons for this, namely the centuries of exploitation of Christian clothing to justify ravenous politics. Of course we can't trust the theology of the last millennium; it was largely formed within an ideology of Christian moral and political supremacy. We can engage, explore, and consider it, and well we should. When we do so, we also should take its historical and political context in which it was written seriously.
For example, during the expansion and spread of Christianity and the re-claiming of territory for the church in the Middle Ages, clergy found ways to justify using violence on behalf of their faith. Some went to great lengths, creatively devising opportunities to harm people within “the rules” of the faith (for example, the rack was an acceptable torture device because it didn’t shed blood). How much more “Pharisaic” and non-Jesus-y could you possibly be? These and many other ghosts of the past linger in our interpretations of Scripture and the message of Jesus. And it is time we take a stand.
We have to write the new theology. We are called to be disciples of Jesus, the Christ, the Prince of Peace and Savior of all people. This Savior has things to say about global market capitalism and the impoverishment of the day laborer, about the worship of the military and the justification of violence to solve problems, about the criticism of the poor and the underfunding of basic services to “the least of these”. This Savior calls us to actively resist the death-dealing forces in our society and the idol worship which has become pervasive (think white supremacy, nationalism, individualism, patriarchy, disregard for God’s Creation, excessive consumption and wastefulness).
We are being called to ask, what does God’s salvation and redemption mean for us now? Are we brave enough to let go of the theologies which have been complicit with Empire for so long, theologies that have focused us too narrowly on personal sin and forgiveness while ignoring systemic sin? Are we ready to articulate a new salvation, a new freedom in Christ that refuses to bow to domination and economic exploitation? Are we willing to boldly proclaim that we are being rescued from the legacies of Empire that we have inherited and bend our will (and our resources) toward the execution of God’s will?
If so, you absolutely CANNOT trust in my vision of what this new theology is. It must be yours, personally. Be willing to be informed, stretched, challenged, and encouraged. Be willing to listen deeply, and be ready to disagree. Let God have the final word. Let Jesus call you out on your complicity, so that Jesus can call you in – into the new life, the resurrected life –which waits for us in the wilderness.
In Peace and With Love,