Recently, the inauguration of a new U.S president occupied our attention. But there’s a more pertinent inauguration needed during days of national upheaval: a fresh elevation of Jesus as Lord.
Many have yet to inaugurate Jesus to this status. Yes, we give lip service to the centrality of Jesus, but often we become acculturated, collapsing toward consumerism, civil religion, and an insular faith. In doing so, we fail to allow Jesus to transform every aspect of our “form and frame,” being “born again,” not only in our relationship to God, but also in our relationship to soul, self, others, and all of creation.
This holistic renewal is the DNA of Jesus’ dream (Luke 4:18-19), for Christ envisions life not constricted, but full and abundant (John 10:10). Thus, the Apostle Paul calls for total life transformation as he details life in Christ: “So here’s what I want you to do ... Take your everyday, ordinary life — your sleeping, eating, going-to-work ... life — and place it before God as an offering ... Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God ... recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you” (Romans 12:1-2 MSG).
Such maturity in Christ is not tribal or siloed, but all-encompassing, calling us not to narrowcast but to adopt a spacious view of life. Thus, Jesus does not see us as conservative or progressive, “native Frederick” or “new Frederick,” Democrat or Republican, Anglo or ethnic, but as persons crafted in God’s image, called to confession and repentance — and in turn — salvation and New Creation in Him (2 Corinthians 5:16-17).
Such a vital, countercultural slant in Christ is promising but also arresting, for ... A Jesus-slant requires that I learn from my enemy, not just confront my enemy. A Jesus-slant requires that I condemn violence after birth, not just before birth. A Jesus-slant requires that I reach toward the sinned against, not just sinners. A Jesus-slant requires that I welcome and receive His Work (the Cross and Resurrection), not just focus on my own efforts. A Jesus-slant requires that I prioritize my citizenship in heaven (God’s Kingdom), not just casually nod to His authority.
In sum, a Jesus-slant is counterintuitive, offering an unexpected way forward amid national upheaval. It does so by calling us to be “resident aliens” in Christ, loyalists to an alternate Kingdom (1 Peter 1:1-2; 2:1-12) rather than conforming to a culture of “racism, nationalism, ethnocentrism, exceptionalism ... postmodernism, militarism.”
In doing so, a Jesus-slant identifies the world, in the words of C.S. Lewis, as “enemy-occupied territory. Christianity [then] is the story of how the rightful king has landed ... and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.” As Michael Gorman clarifies, “this benevolent sabotage is not ... a Christian takeover, a religiously based coup d’état ... but ... a foretaste of something — the new creation that has come and is coming.”
I call us to a mission of sabotage, modeling and proclaiming New Creation in Jesus. In doing so, we refrain from using the tactics of the world, the flesh and the devil, opting for strategies of the Kingdom: enemy love, carefronting, radical hospitality, merciful justice, nonviolent protest (Matthew 5-7). This is not to minimize the abhorrence and disgust before us and the need to witness assertively; please hear me. Instead, it is a way to maximize our effectiveness as we avoid becoming the very evil we deplore.
In Acts 17, Paul and Silas hold a revival meeting in Thessalonica declaring Jesus as Messiah (Acts 17:3). Many believed, including both Greeks and Jews (Acts 17:4), but some Jews “became jealous, and ... formed a mob and set the city in an uproar ... [dragging Paul and Silas’ friend, Jason, and members of his house church] … before the city authorities, shouting ‘These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also ... They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor [Caesar], saying there is another king named Jesus’” (Acts 17:5-7 NRSV). Miraculously, Paul and Silas are released on bail, slipping off to Beroea, but their message still echoed: Jesus was King and not Caesar.
I pray we too turn the world upside down with the disturbing yet enlivening message of King Jesus. It’s tempting to disrupt with mob, uproar or some other conventional means, but far more effective are the countercultural methods of the Messiah. In fact, they’re the best device, surprising and sabotaging, as we live as “resident aliens,” making manifest the New Creation of the Savior. Frankly, that’s the best path forward through a highly charged political climate — modeling and proclaiming boldly another way of living, inaugurating anew Jesus as Lord!
Paul Mundey is a minister, consultant, and writer. He serves as moderator of the Church of the Brethren, the denomination’s highest elective office. For 20 years, he served as senior pastor of the Frederick Church of the Brethren.