The national elections of this past week have revealed how pervasive is the ignorance of so many ostensible church institutions, and their inhabitants, about the essence of both the demands of discipleship, and of the essence and purpose of the Christian church/community. It’s enough to make one weep. Those whom Jesus calls into his new creation community, calls them, by virtue of that, into a community that is always in missionary confrontation with this present age, this immediate cultural, social, and political context and its realities. It is a calling to be the people of the Light in a culture and context of darkness, of rebellion against its creator.

This is another way of saying and demonstrating that the church is always counter-cultural. But, take note: that culture of darkness is incessantly and forever seeking to co-opt the church, to seduce it into a comfortable conformity with its darkness, … but in an ever so sophisticated seduction. The root of that seduction is the drift from absolute obedience to the ethic, the teachings, and the lifestyle of Jesus, … to “religious Christianity,” which embraces the external religious language, but seems not to understand that only those who hear Jesus’ teachings and practice them are truly his disciples.

So that when the political principalities and powers, the political candidates, the political parties, and the power structures of our local and national environment espouse policies that are alien to those of Jesus and his new creation/kingdom, Christ’s disciples quite intentionally seek those policies and candidates that most closely conform to Christ’s agenda of righteousness, of peace, of order, of care for the helpless, … and rejects the arrogance of those that are agents of wealth and power and indifference to those who are weak, or are victims of that very wealth and power. This defies traditional political loyalties, even while, of necessity, participating in them.

This misunderstanding has been palpable in these recent weeks of campaigning. Those who claim for themselves their identity as Christians, but become ardent supporters of candidates and policies of the darkness, … in so doing, forsake their calling to be salt and light. Labels don’t matter. It is the platforms and policies and character that come closer to Christ’s ethical teachings that matter (and these are often set forth by those who don’t profess to being Christian).

When Jesus came near the end of his earthly ministry, he laid out his own agenda, and it was built on his ultimate sovereignty as God’s anointed servant, God’s messiah, to initiate God’s new creation: Note his prophetic word, after Peter declared that Jesus was messiah: “This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.” (Peterson: The Message, Matthew 16:18).

Ah, but then the battle was engaged. The darkness was not long in ferocious resistance, and efforts to domesticate that message. Within the first century God’s people found themselves up against humanly hopeless odds. And yet it is recorded that “they overcame by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives even unto death.” Satan’s assaults, the gates of hell, were ultimately defeated by such lives given in joyous obedience.

The darkness is relentless, which means that those who are intentional in being Christ’s disciples must continually be rehearsing what are the demands of discipleship, and what is the essence of the church, and of its faithfulness in its missionary confrontation with its immediate environment. … The battle is not done!

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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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  1. Craig Wertz says:

    I realized in my sadness at seeing elections lost by 1% that an election that is won by that same 1% would not be a victory at all. Half of my country would still prioritize selfish gain or exclusion of those different from themselves over sacrifice and mercy. The fact that many of them are my Christian brethren troubles and puzzles me. How does one battle for the hearts of the lost when the hearts of even the redeemed are hardened by so much fear and greed that they are indifferent to those who are suffering? I don’t know where to begin but I am challenging myself to raise my own game as it were. Be kinder, more generous, braver to gently state my own beliefs when opportunities arise. To stay chained to the anchor of hope.

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