In such frightening times as these, it helps for to remind ourselves that we, who are followers of Jesus Christ, are not primarily citizens of the land of our present sojourn, but are primarily citizens of the kingdom of our God and of his Christ. That makes us those who are to be determined by an alternative narrative. If that is not true of us, then we become those who are designated by our Lord as salt-less salt, good for nothing but to be cast out …

Here we are in a world that is bewildering (if not down-right frightening) with its challenges what with sixty-four million refugees (more than at any time in human history), with reports of massive attempted genocide in southeast Asia, with over a trillion dollars spent by this nation in the hopeless and lengthy war in Afghanistan costing countless lives. Then then there is the (previously unimaginable) phenomenon of a president who is obviously incompetent for the office, is devoid of discernable ethics, and is truth-challenged, . . . and yet who holds in his hands the power to do irreversible damage by executive order.[1] This, not to mention that the death-toll of the victims of small arms in this nation annually surpasses that of major wars.

Then there is the spectacle of those other government officials who are apparently totally captive to greed and ambition, victims of the power of wealth to influence their decisions in the legislature and in the judiciary. Meanwhile there are all those who are the helpless poor, the un-employed, those desperate for health-care which they can’t afford, or education which is necessary to achieve ambitions but whose cost is forbidding. Everything seems tilted toward the wealthy and the powerful.

Yet, we who are the followers of Jesus Christ are the followers of him who said: “Blessed are you poor . . . woe to you wealthy.” We are the followers of him who made plain his passion for the homeless, the sick, the naked, the strangers in our midst, and those captives to debts. We are those who have embraced him who gave us the Beatitudes, which include such as: mercy, a passion for justice and peacemaking, and such humanitarian causes, even if it costs us suffering and persecution.

This is not a new phenomenon. The people of Judah, in the 8th century BCE had forsaken their own moral calling, and embraced wicked leadership, the greed of the wealthy, and were oppressing the poor. It was Micah who wrote: “… what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Perhaps even more apropos to our calling to follow an alternative narrative is the parable that Jesus gave of the rich man, Dives, and the poor beggar who lay, in his hunger and with his sores, at his gate hoping for some succor from the wealthy man. Dives, it records was wealthy and fared sumptuously every day and wore fine clothes, but didn’t even seem to see Lazarus. And we? So much of our public policy in government is determined by, and profitable to, those of wealth and power, while the needs of the ‘Lazaruses’ of our society go un-noticed because not serve the advantage of those in power who profit from the lobbyist and the political action funds of the principalities and powers of the dominant order.

It will not do to seek retreat into some emasculated version of the church, some (forgive me) ‘Thomas Kincaid version’ of the church where there is no conflict and where the light is soft and spiritual. Or maybe a ‘Norman Rockwell version of the church’ where everything is positive and warm and humorous. No, we are called to be servants of righteousness, and that is always costly. That is also how we become salt and light. We are those formed by the alternative narrative of God’s new creation in Christ. Stay tuned . . .

[1] This has even provoked the venerable missionary publishing house, Orbis Press, to release a volume of essays entitled Faith and Resistance in the Age of Trump.


About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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