This week the nation will be revisiting that unforgettable moment called ‘The March on Washington’ and on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s soaring oratory when he dreamed of a day when justice would “roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Those of us who are followers/disciples of Christ know that such a day is more than a dream, but an eschatological certainty, and we pray for it every time we pray: “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth.”

The problem comes, however, when what is ostensibly ‘the church’ is formed by a subverted and truncated and widely accepted reduction of Christ’s message that creates for itself a comfortable gospel that has so aptly been designated by Bonhoeffer as religious Christianity, or: faith without repentance, which heralds the comforting promises of the gospel, but does so without mentioning the demands of the gospel. Such a distortion populates the church with large masses of unconverted believes … that’s what I said: unconverted believers. Such are those church members who are not formed by the radical claims of message of Christ and the mission of Christ.

But the fulfillment of Christ’s Kingdom announcement begins when ordinary folk are called to come through the narrow gate of repentance and faith to the Savior, Jesus Christ, who then begins the transformation of their lives into New Creation persons, who become the incarnation of his own divine nature. We are called, Peter tells us, to his own glory and excellence, and given promises that through them we might become partakers of the divine nature—a whole different humanity (II Peter 1:3-4). In that new humanity in Christ our lives are radically (sometimes painfully) transformed to epitomize God’s great love and grace toward broken folk, as well as justice and righteousness and peacemaking and the stewardship of creation, and love for neighbors and for enemies, i.e., lives that are visible to those around us in the daily vicissitudes of life.

But the Satanic ploy is to take the church captive to a systemic darkness that redefines the gospel into a comfortable ‘spirituality’ that is replete with sociable church activities and other such counterfeits, and then to pass that off as the real thing. The church then becomes ‘saltless salt.’ The Satanic ploy goes on to produce ‘church professionals’ to expedite this subversion into the church institution. It creates a religious Christianity that is no threat to the dominion of darkness, and whose participants remain too often unconverted, and so still the spiritual inhabitants of the dominion of darkness. And hardly anyone notices.

Our Founder’s invitation to the Kingdom of God, to repentance and faith, as the entrance into that eschatological reality(I love that word: check it out on your Google), is for every single follower to be a contagious agent of that thrilling and transforming reality of Jesus Christ and his New Creation. It was never, never to create stagnant pools of religious Christianity that are at home with the culture of darkness, and the spiritual captives of that darkness.

No, but please note: that same New Creation is transforming, thrilling, demanding, and often dangerous (it can cost you your life!). At the same times, such lives and their influence and presence are a sweet savour of Christ unto God, and are those who wear upon whose feet: “the readiness of the gospel of peace.”

We also have a dream and a mission: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles (i.e., spiritually confused god-seekers) honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (I Peter 2:12). Yes! Thy kingdom come!

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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