These past two weeks have been rather tumultuous to say the least. I have to say that it was a bit strange to go from the bubble that was the National Youth Gathering of the LCMS in New Orleans back out into the “real” world. There was another shooting of police officers just up the river from where we were in Baton Rouge, there was an attempted coup in Turkey, there was also a U.S. led airstrike that killed over 85 civilians that were mistaken for ISIS fighters, there were terrorist attacks in both France and Germany and to top it all off we had the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. The RNC seemed to be the cherry on top of an ice cream sundae full of the various flavors of anxiety, hate, fear and whatever rage we Americans need to get out of our systems. Of course, the Democratic National Convention has just begun and under the shadow of corruption too, but I doubt anyone will top Rudy Giuliani’s speech. That dude be cray cray!
We live in a time of “isms”. There is conservatism, there is liberalism, there is racism, there is sexism, there is classism, there is consumerism, there is patriotism, there is nationalism, there is Lutheranism, there is sectarianism there is materialism, there is capitalism, there is communism, there is fascism and the list goes on and on. Feel free to add some “isms” if you’d like, maybe would could have an “ism” party or something. Anyways, my point is that “isms” abound, and “isms” aren’t so bad in and of themselves. On a basic level it’s good to be able to categorize things, to have an understanding of what they consist of, to know what one is working with. The problem with “isms”, particularly in such an anxious, polarized, and tense time as our own, is that they can all too easily consume us and become the ultimate standard by which we judge and perceive the world around us. Republicans are racist and homophobic. Democrats are secularists who hate God. All cops are violent and terrible. The #Blacklivesmatter movement is angry and divisive. Illegal immigrants are racists. All Muslims are terrorists. All hipsters are bad (well, that’s kind of true).
When we Christians begin to succumb to such rhetoric and to such thinking, when we begin to succumb to “isms” wherein we disregard those whom we disagree with and even treat them as lesser than human, we are being taken captive by this present evil age. We are falling prey to the spirit of Babylon. When we put all our weight into a presidential candidate or a political party foregoing the very commands of Christ to love our enemies and to consider others as better than ourselves we are becoming captive to the powers and principalities that Paul speaks of instead of the Cross of Christ.
Dutch theologian Henri Berkof wrote that we Christians have higher orders. Those orders are higher because they come from above as Jesus so succinctly explained to Pontius Pilate. In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us that having been buried and rises with Christ in baptism we have died to the elemental spirits of the world. Paul even goes so far as to expound about these higher orders in Romans 12 where he begins by calling the Christians in Rome not to be conformed to the spirit of the age. He reminds us that we are to abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good, to bless when cursed, to associate with the lowly and not be haughty, to give thought to what is honorable and to not repay evil for evil, to not seek revenge, but to leave all to the wrath of God, to not be overcome by evil, but rather to overcome it with good.
Because we are so immersed in “isms” we can easily be tempted to think that such things don’t work in the “real” world. But the reality is that by following God’s higher orders Jesus disarmed the rulers and the authorities and put them to open shame. Think about that for a moment. When we confess that Jesus is Lord, we are confessing this truth, this reality, that his Way has triumphed.
Our Lord held fast to what is good, he was not taken in by Satan’s temptations to wealth, power, and a life of ease. In the wilderness, Jesus rejected Donald Trump’s lifestyle. He received plenty of curses from the Cross, from the fists of his accusers and those who mocked him and he prayed for their forgiveness rather than get a gun. He was found in lowly places like rickety boats on the Sea of Galilee, in the house of two poor sisters, and amongst those whom he was taught to hate like the Samaritan woman at the well and Gentile beggars. He was found amongst those who work the jobs we don’t want and in the neighborhoods we could never imagine living and amongst those we’ve come to despise like the moochers and the corrupt. Before breathing his last and dying unjustly at the hands of corrupt and ruthless leaders such as Caiaphas and Pilate Jesus does not call down words of wrath but simply says, “Father into your hands I commend my spirit” leaving all to his Father in heaven. He had some great opportunities to begin a coup, to begin a revolution, remember his followers were willing and ready. He had every right to bring down God’s wrath too. But he fully entrusts his entire being to God. In so doing he overcomes evil with good. Three days later the Father would raise him from the dead, triumphing over the powers and principalities and revealing them to be ultimately powerless.
Remember these things in the midst of all that is going on. In the midst of all of this, only one is Lord, despite what others may claim. In the midst of all of this, only One will continue to remain.