Monday, August 31, 2015
Thoughts in the struggle. . .
Our Christian weakness has always been to succumb to equating a flag with the Kingdom of God, an empire with the Church of Christ, and patriotism with faithfulness to God. Where Christians have given into the temptation, the dark side of our nature has usually triumphed and we have wielded the sword in less than salutary ways. Even popes have fancied themselves as kings or knights, doing battle literally with the enemies of Christ and His kingdom. But the sword we are given and the only effective means against the enemies of our Lord and of His Church is the Word. It is slow. It is deliberate. It appears weak. It seems outgunned. But the Word of the Lord endures forever.
Kingdoms and even church structures come and go. I believe it was about 1969 that Fr. Ratzinger (before he was Pope Benedict XVI) suggested that the Church may well shrink and end up abandoning the great edifices of her prosperity but the Kingdom of God will endure. Whether we are Americans or citizens of any other great power, we want to think God is with us, He is on our side, and He loves us more than others. It is, however, more important that we are with God, that we are on His side, and that we love others as He has loved us. As insignificant as these seem, they are the means by which the Kingdom comes and the Kingdom will prevail.
I for one do not want to think this way and I suspect you do not either. But the chances of the aims of church and state paralleling or intersecting are fewer than their courses diverging and their aims conflicting. This is not the oddity but the norm, according to the Lord Himself. That Christians will face a hostile environment is not the exception but the rule. Jesus insisted that we would not find it easier than He found it and promised to reward not our success but our faithfulness. Conflict with the state, persecution by word and deed, the rejection of the Divine Word, and the fight to remain faithful in an ever more faithless world was never the oddity but the norm, What does Jesus say: “If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you” (John 15:20). “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). When we look upon the persecution of the first three centuries of the Church’s existence, we often shudder to think how it was. But it was not anything strange or foreign. Such persecution and challenge was and is the default mode for Christians living in but not of the world, living in the moment but for eternity.
You will see signs and rumors of more signs but do not lose heart. . . He who endures to the end WILL be saved. You see, we know the outcome, the end of the story, and so, with Jesus, we struggle through. We resist temptation and renounce the flesh and reject the false values of the fake kingdom. They can harm us none. He's judged. The deed is done. One little word can fell him. This is our real and powerful hope and the foundation for the struggle. Easter does not begin the fight but signals the end. Until then we wait, we endure, refuse to give in. Nor will we exchange the symbols of an eternal kingdom to be satisfied by what happens in the ballot box or the courtroom.