of the things that has turned me off concerning the
organized church is the hypocrisy on the part of its
leadership which is reflected in the behavior of its
membership. The church is supposed to be a change-agent
in the name of Jesus, but it has settled for a watered-down
version of the Christian mission that makes it indistinguishable
from the public at large.
instance, "Turn the other cheek," "Love
your enemies," " Forgive 70 times 7,"
"Take up your cross and follow." Seldom are
these texts used as requirements for membership. Rather,
they are discounted as impractical idealism in a world
such as we live in today.
Luke 18 we read of a rich young ruler who comes to Jesus
asking how to receive eternal life. He brags that he
has always fulfilled his religious duties but, apparently,
he realizes that this is not enough. Jesus agrees. He
tells him that he must do one thing more - "Sell
all you have, give to the poor, and follow me."
And the account ends by saying that the man went away
sad, because he was very rich.
people obviously see this as an instruction which cannot
be followed literally, or society would dissolve into
chaos. But this teaching is different from those which
tell us to love, turn the other cheek, forgive and take
up our cross. It is not meant literally - it's a metaphor.
The irony, however, is that the spiritual meaning of
this teaching is even more demanding than the literal
and I are the rich young ruler. We are part of the wealthy
minority in the world. We are a world power with democratic
traditions, we think we have a mission to recast the
world in our image, we are a Christian nation which
exports religion along with democracy, and we retain
the subtle assurance that since God has blessed us more
than most, he must love us more. As a result, we often
feel that we are acting in the name, and with the authority,
modern thrust of this biblical story is that we will
never see the Kingdom of God if we continue in this
frame of mind. Our ego-driven philosophy tells us that
might makes right, that we can settle every conflict
by military means. Jesus, by contrast, tells us that
peacemaking and forgiveness are the only tools that
bring in the Kingdom, or that establish world peace.
Our present administration, which claims to be so loyal
to Jesus, ignores the fact that it acts in almost complete
opposition to his teachings. The philosophy of strike
and counter-strike has created the mess in the middle
east. Violence not only fails to solve this problem,
it generates more counter violence.
confronts us as the rich young ruler of our day: "You
have to sell what you have -- your hubris, your history
of viewing the world through a gunsight -- and realize
that forgiveness and love alone will bring in the Kingdom."
There are no guns in the Kingdom, and we cannot get
there by blasting our way in.
challenges us to choose between the physical, ego-driven
world, and the spiritual, Holy Spirit-driven Kingdom.
Most people, like the ruler, go away sad because they
don't want to give up their rich traditions, their illusion
that, because we are a Christian nation, God is pleased
when we force our will on others. People who think that
way don't believe that Jesus knew what he was talking
about when he called for peace and forgiveness, and
so they choose the world rather than the Kingdom.
has to break the cycle of violence if we are going to
create a new world. The church should be setting the
example, but it is often merely part of the problem.
Like the ruler, we ask, "What must we do to see
the Kingdom, to create a world of love and harmony?"
And the answer is still the same: "Realize that
your best weapon is not the ego's earthly goals, but
the Holy Spirit's timeless call for love, forgiveness,
John W. Sloat 2006