Fight terror with…truth.

Power reveals itself in very particular ways in this world of ours.  There are well established patterns for powerful people to follow; politics, and economics offer chances for ambitious people to make names for themselves – to build up their kingdoms.  We watch them with interest, we  offer them support (and sometimes our trust).  We leave them to manage the day to day affairs of the state.  Their products shape our culture and their ideas infect our minds until, viola – a way of life – a country – a kingdom develops which we want to share, or we are asked to justify and protect because “our way” is  somehow beneficial or superior or (heaven help us…) blessed by the god of our choosing.  These kingdoms are sometimes stable enough to last one lifetime – but not always.  There are times when multiple generations struggle to find a way of peace, or find themselves fighting for the wrong cause.

When I was choosing the lessons from the Lectionary for today, I wasn’t thinking about these things. Paris was just another European capital that I wanted to visit; Beirut was still a war-torn wonder that seemed dusty and backward; Syria had been in the news for so long that It was becoming dangerously easy to ignore.  The parade of misery in the last couple of weeks has (for me) changed that.  Our continued mis-use and misunderstanding  of our own power – power to make kingdoms of our own design; power to influence thought and action; power to control those who threaten or frighten us – every application of human power in the pursuit of human satisfaction was once again making headlines. I couldn’t help thinking kingdom thoughts.  I could not ignore the evidence that suggested we were arguing about (and fighting for) the wrong things, and  I could no longer ignore the conversation between Jesus and Pilate – from John’s gospel (Jn 18: 28-37).

This moment, coming as it does in the final hours of Jesus’ life, brings the confusion between ‘a Kingdom FOR God’ and ‘the Kingdom OF God’ into sharp focus.  It’s not magic – it’s barely even a mystery – but in a world saturated with violence done in the name of “right” or “faith” or “democracy” or “freedom”. this is a comparison to which we should pay attention.

This is the meeting of two very different kinds of power.  Pilate, representing ‘might makes right’, is the power that we all understand.  His is the power we are asked to support with our hard earned dollars and with our democratic privilege.  His is the power projected by our armed forces, and vested in our governments.  All officially sanctioned – all perfectly ‘normal’ as far as we are concerned.  And Jesus is brought before this power as a prisoner condemned.

Pilate doesn’t want the job – he had suggested that this was an internal, Jewish matter.  But Jesus is a threat to Jewish religious power, and that threat must be removed to protect the kingdom that the leadership is protecting – their kingdom.  Pilate has heard the stories, though – “Are you the King of the Jews?”  Powerful people understand the attraction of power – surely the oppressed must have a champion – a king of their own…

Jesus doesn’t really help his own cause – “My kingdom is not from [of?] this world…” – he claims the title that Pilate first gives him – and on this evidence, along with a multitude of other Scripture, we claim Jesus as “Our King” – and we long to call ourselves citizens of the kingdom of God – but what do we think that means?  Because Jesus is not making a statement about location – He is not offering directions to a kingdom in heaven (at some mystical future time); His is a statement of content and context.  My kingdom is NOT like your (human) kingdoms…

Jesus does not propose to make (or keep safe) a kingdom for God; he represents – and encourages us to seek – a different kind of kingdom – God’s own kingdom – which is ordered around the ideals of perfect love and true justice.  This is not a kingdom we are required to fight for or justify; we need not fret about who belongs, or wonder about a sudden regime change because Jesus has declared the boundaries open to all “who seek the truth”.  This kingdom is established by One who has no beginning and no end (see Revelation, chapter 1) – a kind of ‘kingdom’ completely outside our experience.

God’s kingdom does not ask us to take up arms, or argue about the process of kingdom-making.  We are invited to listen to Jesus, who dares us to believe him: “I have come…to testify to the truth.” – truth that says God has more to offer than power – more to share than territory or prestige.  In this kingdom of truth,  there is no need to fear, for this is a kingdom founded on the love of God, which drives out fear.  This is the kind of place we should want to call home, and Jesus has already hinted that this kingdom – this peace – this truth – is “very near…”

It may not seem possible, given recent events, but the Kingdom of God is always open to those who”’do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.”  This must be how we choose to respond to acts of terror or calls for revenge – we must follow the example of our King, who resisted evil without resorting to violence.  Even his encounter with Pilate shows us Jesus offering this powerful man a chance to do justice – to seek truth.  Pilate only knew enough about Jesus to be afraid of this new thing that Jesus offered – imagine, this powerful ruler afraid of a poor travelling rabbi – and Pilate’s fear forced him to act according to the pattern of power in the world; with violent suppression.

Jesus’ humble insistence that there was an option – that peace and truth and love would win – was proven three days later.  Thanks be to God, the power of peace prevailed against even the dismal certainty of death, and the Risen Christ still calls to all who seek a better way.  Amen


Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: