Reformation never comes easy. Perhaps that is why the word looks so similar to revolution. Both are things which come at great cost. The reformer, like the revolutionary, must be willing to risk everything to bring the change in which they believe in.
There comes a moment in every person’s life where you must decide if the things you believe in passionately are worth the cost to fight for. If they are you will face persecution, rejection, ridicule and loneliness. Obviously these things overlap some and you will go in and out of experiencing each one at different times, but the point is, bringing change is difficult.
The revolutionary has something at his disposal that the reformer does not…well, should not have. The revolutionary can kill his opponents. The revolutionary can lean on violence as a tool to overthrow the powers that be. The reformer must win the battle by his/her capacity to suffer and love. Martin Luther King Jr. recognized this as he sought to reform the American church. He once famously penned, from a jail cell, these beautifully prophetic words aimed at racist southern Christians,
“We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we shall continue to love you…Throw us in jail and we shall still love you…But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win our freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory.”
A reformer relies on shining a light into the darkness. The problem is that when people have been in a dark room for a very long time, they have grown accustomed to it. Is the light better? Sure. Does the light enable us to see things as they really are? Absolutely. But it hurts our eyes. We may recoil back and cover our eyes. Some may even shout, turn the light off! The reformer knows it is absolutely necessary for people to be able to adjust their eyes to the light. Even if they hate them for flipping the switch.
Christianity has been in bed with empire for so long and been synonymous with empire for nearly as long, that sometimes it is hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. There are reformers rising up all over the place who are no longer satisfied with being in the dark room and struggling to tell the difference between Christianity and the empire. The light is flicking on all over the place and people are starting to see more clearly.
The current model of Christianity is dying. People are fleeing from it at alarming rates. The established church is trying desperately to become more relevant or more entertaining or more seeker friendly, and I think all those things are fine, a lot of my good friends subscribe to those things, but there is also an ever growing group of people saying, “I just want to follow Jesus, I could care less how relevant or entertaining or seeker friendly the community is, I just want to understand Jesus.”
The establishment is crumbling underneath the weight of its own stances. Hardline stances on behavior and appearance are pushing people away. Even the most gracious in the established church are forced to take hardline, dogmatic stances on certain things, such as homosexuality and patriotism, which are deemed crucial by the larger establishment, while ignoring the nonviolent example set by Jesus and walked out by the disciples as well as early Christians.
Jesus is merciful, forgiving and understanding. If the church does not look like that then it just doesn’t matter what else we are doing. God looks like Jesus. Jesus is the full revelation of the Father. If it doesn’t look like Jesus, then it is not God.
If the church cannot learn to love people and get rid of all the “yea but’s” then we will become just another relic of history. If the church cannot learn to let science point to God instead of digging our heels in the dirt, closing our eyes and refusing to accept the truth, then we will never truly be relevant.
Here in America we are having culture wars. The status quo is to fall in line with what has always been believed, but truth be told, no one ever does that. Twenty years ago contemporary Christian worship music was seen as evil and traditional hymns were the only way. “A guitar in church?! How irreverent!” This shout was surely common in a previous generation. Now we are talking ideals, we are talking about the structure on which this whole thing stands.
Ponder this question. If the whole established church fell apart, where would you be left? If the machine that is organized religion crumbled, where would you be? Would you have a community of brothers and sisters you could lock arms with? Or would lacking a service to attend leave you lost?
We have to stop doing church to hear a good preacher or going somewhere because we agree with their doctrine or whatever. We need to do church with people we can do family with. We need people we can disagree with and still walk with. We need people who can argue with us over coffee and then go out and tell people, together, about this Jesus who has changed our lives.
Now, back to the empire. Our wars, our vast lean towards funding our military while leaving our schools grossly underfunded, has aligned the empire in which we live in a specific disposition. Do not buy the lies the political parties feed you. Both Republican and Democrat have contributed to our sickening over funding of our military. For the church to get in bed with this monster is a grave mistake. The problem is, we made this mistake about 1700 years ago.
When Constantine made Christianity the religion of the empire, the face of Christianity changed forever. All the sudden we Christians decided there was such thing as a just war. It would not be long before we Christians were advocating, and even perpetuating, holy wars.
It’s time to turn the light on and see that Jesus was never in bed with the empire. The empire saw Jesus as a threat because a message of peace, love and nonviolence can sink an empire. This is the same reason that as true Christianity rises from the rubble of the cultural Christianity which has enveloped our nation, those in power will do everything they can to silence the voice of the reformers.
Many of the current reformers have felt the wrath of the establishment already. But we press on. We continue to keep our feet fitted with the readiness which comes from the gospel of PEACE (Ephesians 6). The gospel…of peace.
The current reformers might be hard to recognize. Very few of us are behind podiums on a Sunday, though some are. We may be waiting your table or tending your bar or painting your house or photographing your wedding. We are incognito. Not because we want to be, but because that is where the establishment has pushed us. However, we are not whispering. We are speaking. We are speaking loudly, boldly and confidently. We are speaking up for the man on death row, we are praying for the Muslim in the middle of the war of the empires. We are following Jesus. We are beckoning you to join us. We are attempting to win you with our capacity to love.
Join us. Throw off the chains of the establishment and take a chance. Risk it all, in the name of love…in the name of Jesus Christ. We know it’s scary, but we believe that a better world is possible. We believe this world can be changed, and we believe you will be a part of that.
See you soon.