Let's Talk About Empire

If you've been around Admiral much, you have certainly heard me use this word in worship and Bible Study. It is THE most important concept to unlocking the real meaning and purpose of Jesus Christ’s life and ministry on Earth. Without considering Empire, we cannot fully grasp the meaning of His parables, His healings, His execution, and His resurrection. Trust in God and love of neighbor are given new depth in the context of Empire, and the call on our lives to right-relationship is given more definition

Empire is an idea more than a thing; it is a way of organizing people and using power. It has a shape (pyramid) and a pattern (violence), and it is pervasive in human life. Attributes of Empire include: domination, subordination, enforced submission and conformity, intimidation, elitism, economic exploitation, and wealth consolidation, to name a few. In essence, Empire is a way of organizing people and things that assumes inherent inequalities between people, inequalities that justify unequal access to resources, unequal access to political power, and unequal applications of violence. Empire is the true enemy of God, who knows all people to be beloved children.

The ministry of Jesus was a direct confrontation to Empire, both externally in terms of governance and economics, as well as internally in terms of arrogance and indifference. Empire either wants me to believe I deserve to be on top, or believe I deserve to be on the bottom; its actual goal is to maintain the distinction between the two. When convincing people through well-crafted lies starts to fail, violence will always be Empire’s tool of choice. If we start to confront the systems and structures of Empire, our careers, our reputations, our wealth, and our very lives will soon be threatened. It is the threat of death that the power of Empire ultimately hangs on.

This is what gives the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus deep power. Empire’s one decisive tool was used on Him, and it failed. The messages of belovedness and repentance, both of which profoundly undermine Empire, were vindicated by God. Jesus is my Savior, in that He saves me from trusting in Empire to give me security and peace. True security and peace does not come through domination, control, and the use of violence. If it did, Empires would not constantly be under threat. No, instead they generate masses of outsiders and oppressed people yearning to be free. It is in true freedom that I find peace and security, and this freedom requires a radical commitment to resist Empire, both in the world and in myself.  My own fears of inadequacy, of scarcity, of conflict, these fears tempt me to embrace Empire thinking to get control. They might be effective for a while, but they will require me to constantly police my life and my relationships, maintaining my dominance and control over others and myself.

In the Book of Revelation, we see God fully reject the invitation to Empire thinking. When the beasts threaten to take over the world, and humanity looks for the Lion of Judah to save them, God sends the slaughtered Lamb. God refuses to send a force of dominance, but instead sends a being of extreme vulnerability. Angels begin their heralds to humankind with the words, “do not fear”. It is in our fear that Empire gets control of us, either using us to dominate others and perpetuate Empire, or to submit to its already present power on Earth. No, we shall not submit to fear. Empire has no home here.

In Peace and With Love,

Pastor Andrew

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