Following the Course of This World: The Alt Right, Transgender Rallies, and Kim Jung Un
Jesus lived during a time of great racial unrest and cultural division. The unrest of today or even the cultural unrest of America in 1960s really did not compare to first century Judea. The unrest and division of that time eventually culminated in the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-136AD) wherein the Romans killed thousand and tried to permanently remove all Jewish people from the Promised Land. This removal was so serious and complete that the descendants of Abraham did not return to the land for more than 1700 years. I tell you this just to give you a picture of the depth of hate that existed between the Romans and the Jews during and after the ministry of Jesus. Yet among the followers of Jesus, from the very earliest days of the church, we see unity between Jew and Gentile Roman. Jesus has always had this way of rising above the kingdoms and classes of this world and bringing peace and unity as Paul describes in his letter to the Ephesians, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (2:14ESV).
The same Paul reminds Christians one chapter earlier that without Christ they are caught in the “course of this world,”following the schemes of Satan himself. And if you are a Christian you must never forget this. The world is caught in a course. People will always find themselves in a story, in a narrative, and it is through those stories that we make sense of life. So, people on the political left have a narrative that they are following and there are certain issues and causes that they find important and meaningful and the progress of these issues and causes is what gives energy and life to that course. So, for example the rallies that took place last weekend against President Trump’s ban on transgender personnel in the military were a part of that course led by individuals who believe that a person should be able to deny the gender of their birth without any societal restrictions. People on the political right also have a course. The events of this weekend spurred by the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia should not surprise us because there is a course called the Alt-Right that finds meaning and value in “tradition” and in racial supremacy. Similarly, the actions of North Korea from this past week should not surprise us. The totalitarian Kim dynasty in North Korea has been teaching its oppressed people a course that the west is evil and that only the Kim family can protect the people of North Korea from the rest of the world, and according that that course, or story, these nuclear threats are necessary. Don’t you see? It shouldn’t surprise us that people are following the courses of this world, this is what Paul told us nearly 20 centuries ago.But the wonder and power of the Gospel is that Jesus came to earth to be a different kind of king, who leads a different kind of Kingdom. His kingdom is not of this world and Jesus calls his followers out of and above all of these courses, he calls his followers away from the false and fleeting narratives of our day into the one true and eternal story.
What worries me is when Christians find themselves in one of these courses. I grew up in the 1990s when Christians were the masters of spiritualizing secular music.So, after the success of groups like Beastie Boys there was a great market for the DC Talk album “Free at Last,” three years later when grunge rock groups like Nirvana were more marketable we got a very different album from DC Talk,“Jesus Freak.” DC Talk and the Contemporary Christian Music world in general weren’t coming up with a unique style of music they were just taking music styles that were marketable and adding Christian lyrics. Now my point here is not to knock DC Talk, it is to illustrate how Christians are prone to behave. If we aren’t careful we are very prone to find a popular course of this world and then try to spiritualize it, rather than following the course of Christ. And when we begin doing this it is very easy to get caught in a course that is not the way of Christ, and to eventually become confused or even deceived as to which is which. Now as long as Christians are doing this with a music style it is probably not that big of a deal, but when it goes beyond that it can become very damaging to the witness of Jesus and to the purity of the church. For example, I have long heard groups of Christians taking talking points that they are hearing on the Fox News Network and or conservative talk radio and simply adding a Christians theme or biblical character to spiritualize them even though what they are defending is very different from the nature and message of Jesus. At the same time, I have heard other groups of Christians taking soundbites out of language from the Black Lives Matter movement or some other progressive group and doing the same thing just from the other side of the political aisle. Now it goes without saying that there are things said on the Fox News Network and on conservative talk radio that are good and right and of course the same is true of the Black Lives Matter movement and other progressive groups. My point in all of this is to say that Christians have a long track record of getting caught up in the courses of this world and forgetting that Jesus has lifted us above all of this. Christians should seek to find the good but should also be critical of every course, just as Jesus was.
I guess my question is, who are we taking our cues from? I have heard a lot of Christians condemning the group of several hundred white supremacists in Charlottesville this weekend and they should be condemning this evil group, but I can’t remember the last time I heard someone comment on the more than 400,000 Syrians who have been killed by the unjust civil war in that country. I see a lot of Christians who are passionate about defending or rebuking President Trump for any number of things, but are they as passionate about reaching the millions of souls from the more than 1600 people groups who don’t have access to a single verse of scripture?
I am not saying that Christians shouldn’t engage with politics or movements. I am saying that if we are really faithful to Christ then the secular political parties and movements will learn that they cannot ultimately count on a Christian because Christians are not ultimately loyal to any of them. For that matter, we are not ultimately loyal to any company, or family, or service organization because we are ultimately loyal to a nail scarred middle eastern man that we believe is the ruler of the universe.
And one day we believe that that man will return and settle every account. He will bring ultimate justice, he will crush any injustice. He will bring ultimate racial reconciliation, he will reconcile all things.He will restore all that has been broken, and he will make everything right and beautiful. But until then there will be evil, there will be division, there will be hatred, and Christians should be quick to condemn all of this. But remember, the courses of this world will go on. They can promise power and big crowds but they ultimately are small and temporal and will lead you down a crooked path. Don’t forget fellow believer that you have been called out of the courses of this world by the power and grace of Jesus himself. Follow him as closely as you can, trust in him with all your heart, no matter what, and he will make your path straight.