Sometimes life just seems like there is no possibility of something changing. We make arguments for it all the time. “Well, that’s just how it’s always been.” Or, “I’m sorry, but we (I) didn’t have a choice in the matter.” Life and reality just seem to be given to us as if there are no real alternative, no real options. Life is what it is and what it always will be. The person writing Ecclesiastes felt this way: “There’s nothing new under the sun.”
This plays itself out in a number of different arenas of life: government, work, family, and, sometimes, the Church. In actuality, what underlies many of these arenas is a culture that has significantly shaped us to think and act in specific ways and always on its own terms. Thus, when our “rights” are trampled by someone else, we feel the need to secure our privileges. And, most of the time, this is done through violence. Violence here is used in its broadest sense (not simply physical violence). And, it happens in all areas of life. Scripture, in fact, is full of examples (I’ll use physical violence, as an example): Cain kills Abel, Herod and Pharaoh slay children and David has Uriah killed, Eli’s sons use the Ark as a tool of war and to legitimate their own reign of terror (which backfires). Maintaining the illusion of certainty, that there is no alternative to the way things are, requires brute force and strength… which ultimately produces death and suffering, especially among the weak and disadvantaged of any society.
The Gospel is a dangerous alternative in a world of certainty. It is a “testimony to otherwise.” It suggests that the current arrangements of this world are death-dealing traps. The Gospel is a call to a renewed imagination that goes beyond the surface of reality and looks to discern God’s alternative Kingdom in the midst of broken creation. Jesus has some very peculiar words, like: “blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are those who are persecuted…”
We look at that description of the Kingdom of Heaven and wonder: “How are those people ‘blessed?’” We wonder how something is so possible when the exact opposite seems to be true in our world. Have our imaginations not been so shaped by our culture and our world that we cannot see, nor understand, the Kingdom of God?
I think it is important and imperative, especially during this time of season, to remember where our allegiance truly lies. The Kingdom is not a call to security or to certainty, as if we can explain everything and control it. The Church is a testimony to otherwise in the midst of a world that cannot see or perceive God’s Kingdom way. Living faithfully in a world of ideological idolatry opens up new imaginative possibilities for life in the present, as well as, the future. Rather than saying, “That’s the way it’s always been.” Let us ask, “Is that the way God would want it to be?”