There’s a lot of talk these days about starting a revolution. Christians want to “revolutionize church” or start a “love revolution.” It’s exciting talk. It’s the stuff that sounds good ringing through the speakers of a massive arena, especially when spoken by a dude with skinny jeans and messy hair, with strains of an electric guitar vamping over pulsing drums. And maybe in a cool accent. It’s inspiring. Songs become anthems, sermons become sound bites, and phrases become rallying cries…
In the frenzy of youthful optimism, the most overlooked, underasked question is, Against whom are we revolting? And furthermore, what does it look like to revolt against it? Then finally, what is the price of such a revolt?
It may not look like Joel Salatin rejecting corporate greed and the violation of ecology by running a small local farm, but it may mean thinking more carefully about where the food we eat comes from and at what expense to the worker and the earth. I recently finished doing premarital counseling for a young couple who chose not to use a diamond in the girl’s engagement ring just to ensure that they wouldn’t inadvertently support conflict diamonds. I know a young banker who refuses to depersonalize his clients by rushing them through the system just so he can meet a quota.
What do all these things have to do with faith in Christ?
The great Swiss theologian Karl Barth once wrote: “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.” Many Christians get the sense of this in the way they rally to oppose abortion or same-sex marriage or teenage immorality. And certainly, all that is part of the uprising against the disorder of the world. But there is more.
The “world” in the New Testament is used in two ways: It is either describing the universe—as in the cosmos, the totality of God’s originally good creation; or it means the systems and structures and societies of people who have organized themselves apart from God and, indeed, against Him. This second sense of the “world” is often typified in prophetic language as “Babylon.” Babylon, in Biblical parlance, is the epitome of a system, structure, and society that has raised itself up independently of and against God. Early in the Genesis story, the tower of Babel itself is a picture of man’s systematic, structural, and societal revolt. It is human rebellion beyond the individual level of Eden; it is a full-blown coup d’état against God and His rule. In the dramatic closing book of the Bible, John’s vision paints a stunning picture of contrasting unequal parts: the reigning Lamb versus the eventually defeated Beast; the spotless Bride in contrast to the vile Whore; and Jerusalem, God’s shining city, set against Babylon, the organized godlessness of the world. There is Jesus and His kingdom and His people. And there is the pathetic parody that is ultimately destroyed.
To take Barth’s words seriously, we must understand that prayer is about recognizing Jesus as the true King of the world, and that belief in Jesus as King demands a certain way of living. If the people of God believe that the “earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof ” (Ps. 24:1 ESV), then we will care that the earth is being abused. If we believe that Jesus is the only Lord over all, then we will follow and obey Him here and now. If we believe that the Way of Jesus and His kingdom run in opposition to the values of the systems and structures of the world, then we must think more carefully about what systems and structures of evil and oppression we are complicit in.
But I cannot tell you what that should look like in its particulars. That is part of you embracing the King and His kingdom. Every area—every area: how we treat others, where we buy our food and clothing, the way we vote, and the way we work—must be brought under God’s reign. And that may take on different hues on each individual canvas. We must not stand as anyone’s judge. But each must raise the questions and wrestle through to answers. And then wrestle through again and again until the Messiah returns.
True, there is much that we cannot undo or fully set right. But, as I will attempt to explain in the epilogue, we should get on with doing what we can rather than throw up our hands in resignation. To be clear, our goal is not to create utopia here. And yet we are to anticipate the kingdom coming in fullness by living now the way it will be then. I will say much more about that in the next chapter.
Enough clumsy foreshadowing. If we are not being rejected by the systems and structures of a world that has organized itself apart from and against God, perhaps it is because we have not yet rejected them. We pose no threat. Perhaps we have not yet embraced the kingdom of God; we have only gotten comfortable with a religion that has a shell of godliness but has denied its power.
Lucky are those who are rejected by the world, for they are a threat to it and their reward is from a kingdom not of this world.
Read the FOREWORD by Eugene Peterson HERE.
Read ALL of CHAPTER 1 HERE.
Read an excerpt from CHAPTER 2 HERE.
Read an excerpt from CHAPTER 3 HERE.
Read an excerpt from CHAPTER 4 HERE.
Read an excerpt from CHAPTER 5 HERE.
Read an excerpt from CHAPTER 7 HERE.
Buy LUCKY HERE.