This is another blog I follow, among the several, Leah has done some great writing here and I do believe she is right on. I encourage, no, I dare you to read it through.
Please leave a comment, if possible, whether pro or con. Thanks.
by Leah Randall
When Mary Tudor ascended the throne of England, the monarchy reverted to the Roman Catholic faith. John Bradford was one of the Reformers imprisoned in the Tower of London for his faithfulness to the Church of England. Seeing some fellow-prisoners marched off to their execution, Bradford is said to have observed “There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford.”
Bradford himself soon joined the ranks of the martyred in the Reformation narrative. Though some have doubted the attribution of the saying, There but for the grace of God go I lives on in the English language as a pious cliche warning against viewing the less fortunate, the fallen, the needy, and the weak with pitiless contempt.
In recent decades a small group of “scholars”, with the help of a major television network and the aid of a few well-respected journalists, have tried to reduce Jesus of Nazareth to a cynic-sage who went about uttering wise and pithy sayings. Thanks be to God for the multitude of theologians—masters of apologetics, hermeneutics and homiletics, all with the respected Ph and D appended to their names—who have risen to defend the reliability and authority of the New Testament record! And while the great debates have raged since the Reformation and continue to this day, mainstream Christendom in the West has invested billions of dollars in budgets—real estate, buildings, clergy and staff salaries, programs—without claiming a tremendous advance of the Kingdom. The priesthood of believers has had its ears tickled and managed to keep the “unclean” at arm’s length without getting our hands dirty. Factor in the faction that has reduced Jesus’ words about seeds and harvests to a secret formula for “sow your money into my ministry and your ship will be coming in because God is just waiting for you to re-leassse your seed so He can release your harvest”. I’m sure I left out more than one sideshow, but step back and behold the circus—yes the Big Tent of Christendom. The Greatest Story Ever Told or the Greatest Show on Earth?
If you’ve ever had an atheist confront you with how much evil has been done in the world in the name of Christianity (the martyrdom of John Bradford being just one example), then you know going to the circus doesn’t equip you to defend your faith. All the arguments we make from scripture, all the doctrines we cobble together with proof texts, all the benevolences we make from a sterile distance turn to sawdust when a band of celebrities turns out to stage a benefit concert that temporarily alleviates suffering in some corner of the world as well as (better than) any effort we “Christians” can muster. What about a lasting impact? Maybe we’ve tried too hard to promote “Christianity” as a packaged product, thinking “decisions for Christ” cataloged on commitment cards and a little charitable distribution of financial aid here and there would be enough to fulfill the Great Commission. And in trying too hard to propagate our Constantinian, Westernized “Christianity”, maybe we lost the keys to the Kingdom.
It’s a good thing there’s dialogue and debate and questioning going on these days. We need to talk about “going down” into the messier aspects of a life lived unto God. So, where, in this dialogue might we begin to look for those lost keys? Do we start with the parable of the Good Samaritan? Perhaps with the Rich Young Ruler? Or is it just so obvious that the hour calls for “watchmen on the walls” to proclaim imminent judgment and hail the approach of the “great escape” (aka “the rapture”)?
Might I suggest a place to begin our search for the keys to the Kingdom?
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.__Matthew 18:2-3
Oh yeah…you’ve heard that one before, haven’t you? Of course you have.
Wait…don’t be in such a rush to move on. I’m sorry if that’s just too simple when you set it up against human trafficking, cholera, starvation, war, pestilence, drug addiction, the four horsemen and the inevitability that God is going to judge this world with trumpets sounding and bowls of wrath …BUT He’s going to come catch YOU up into the air because you filled out a commitment card right after you prayed that sinners prayer. I am very sorry that passage is just so familiar and so simple it doesn’t fit with your enlightened, orthodox, doctrinal, theological, sophisticated understanding of Evangelical TRUTH. Read the quote again from the Amplified Bible and let it sink in, please:
And He called a little child to Himself and put him in the midst of them, and said, Truly I say to you, unless you repent (change, turn about) and become like little children [trusting, lowly, loving, forgiving], you can never enter the kingdom of heaven [at all]. __Matthew 18:2-3 Amplified Bible
Read it one more time.
Never enter the kingdom? At all? Have I repented enough? Changed enough? Trusted enough? I don’t know about you, but that just knocks the breath out of me. Whoosh. How do I become like a little child?
When it comes to paradoxes, Jesus always kept both barrels loaded. Just a couple of chapters later, Matthew describes how Jesus addressed the “upwardly mobile” ambitions of His disciples:
But Jesus called them to him and said, ”You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”__Matthew 20:25-28 ESV
Doesn’t that just make you wonder why anyone would want to be “first among” the disciples? You have to be a servant and a slave…not to mention you have to become a child again. And yet…there is one thing servants, slaves and children had in common in the days when Jesus walked the earth—and the disciples should have known what it was.
Children, servants and slaves had no power. Except in cases where a highly-placed servant was empowered to act on his employer’s or master’s behalf, none of these three classes had any authority. Their very lives were in the hands of the people who had what the world called power. If they were to go somewhere, their way was paid by a parent or a master.
In that context, the question isn’t whether I’ve repented enough, changed enough, done enough. Becoming like a child means accepting I have no power or authority…at least no power or authority the world will recognize. I can relate to that. I simply have to make a choice: do I want to be “successful” as the world measures success and do it on my own? Or do I want to successfully enter the Kingdom of Heaven (accept that my way has already been paid) and share in the destiny of those who pursue the unsearchable riches of Christ? This is Good News I want to share with everyone around me! It’s the Good News of the Kingdom that sets us free from making bricks for Pharaoh under the world system (being driven by a false idea of success as the world measures it) or serving Babylon (the legalistic, performance-based structure of organized religion)!
Now that we’ve “talked about” going down into the messier aspects of a life lived unto God, what do we do about it?
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already agreed with me—it’s a “no brainer” to follow Christ. I would rather be a servant in the Kingdom than rule the world! But what’s next? What do we do after we look at others and admit, “There, but for the grace of God go I”? Do we just pay lip service to their circumstances but resume our efforts to better our own because we have the power and authority to determine our own destiny? Do we apply the values of the world culture when we set goals for our own destiny? We live in exciting times when the keys to the Kingdom are being restored to the Church. It’s time to become as little children, servants and slaves…to wield the authority He gives us by the power of the Spirit…and go against the world. If we want to see the Kingdom come on earth and God’s will done here as it is in heaven, in the words of my friend Jeff Parrott, it’s time for us to “go low…to help others reach their destiny”. May the Lord help us learn to go low and help others reach their destiny as children in the Kingdom of God.
And may we become “the least” in the eyes of the world so that the immeasurable goodness and love of God our Father may be made known to the world as we increase in likeness to His Son our Lord by the power of His Spirit working grace in and through us.___Amen.
So, there’s my “rant” for the October Synchroblog–”Down We Go”. Thanks for visiting! I walk with a limp and I see “as in a mirror, dimly”. These are some of my thoughts. PLEASE visit the other contributing writers at these links and offer your comments to their posts as the Spirit leads. The more people who join the conversation, the clearer the picture.
- Alan Knox – How Low Can You Go
- Jeremy Myers – Seeking The Next Demotion
- Glenn Hager – Pretty People
- David Derbershire – Reaching The Inner City
- Tammy Carter – Flight Plan
- Leah Randall – Jacked Up–my “other blog”
- Liz Dyer – Beautiful Mess
- Maria Kettleson Anderson – Down
- Christine Sine – There Is No Failure In The Kingdom of God
- Leah Sophia – Down We Go
- Hugh Hollowell – Downward
- Kathy Escobar – We May Look Like Losers – Redux
- Anthony Ehrhardt – Slumming It For Jesus
- Sonja Andrews – Diversion and Distraction
- Marta Layton – Down The Up Staircase
- Wendy McCaig – A Material Girl
Read more by Leah Randall via Rantings of a Protestant Heretic (“My Other Blog”)