One of the most distressing things about the Great Divide, as we’ve come to call the chasm separating us in so many arenas, is the way we seem compelled to create an enemy out of our opponents. I know that I am getting sucked in to an argument with more heat than light when I hear people explaining, “Well, you know this is what the right wing believes,” or “You know this is how liberals think.” And then we go on to explain the thinking of “the other side” for them, usually with the greatest stereotypes we can muster. I had to stop getting news headlines from several online services because I realized they were just feeding my ire and my fire.
It’s not that we don’t need enemies, it’s just that we’ve chosen the wrong ones. “We are not fighting with flesh and blood,” Ephesians 6:12 tells us, “but against powers, against principalities, against mighty powers in this dark world.” And no, I’m not talking about your favorite political bogeyman there.
Our arguments have a tendency to go apocalyptic quickly these days, but if they were truly apocalyptic, we wouldn’t be imagining the worst that our opponents could do. We would be trying to discern the spiritual temperature of the times. Because the apocalyptic world view, as Fleming Rutledge talks about in her latest book The Crucifixion, is not one that imagines the destructive potential of human actions, but one that places those actions within the context of God’s activity and God’s timeline. The real question is not, “How are we going to end it all?” but “Where is the realm of God, God’s new thing, being revealed?”
The way our perverted apocalypticism is revealed in the church is in the absence of a sense that anything is at stake when we gather. When we sink into old worship forms that merely feed our nostalgia or persist in doing things simply because of our inertia, we lose the imperative that comes from being truly enlisted in a spiritual adventure which requires the full armor of God. Signing on for service in Christ’s corpus is about a fight to the death confrontation with the principalities that have enslaved one and all. And that’s a fight God wins.
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