11 December 2012
Citizens of another kingdom?
Picking up on David Capener's recent challenge, I'm convinced that the most political statement we can make in Northern Ireland today is: 'Jesus is Lord.'
The consequences of saying and meaning it are profound. Firstly Jesus directly challenges those who dare to call him Lord saying: "Why do you call me Lord and not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46) Jesus pulls no punches. It's clear that in proclaiming these three words we bind ourselves to a radical obedience.
So like Jesus let's get right to the point, in the same way that the flags issue has cut through the sticking plaster to our unresolved cancer. Proclaiming and claiming Jesus as Lord re-identifies us - we become citizens of another kingdom. We are re-created and have one new allegiance together in Christ.
Evangelicalism here has historically and unhelpfully been tangled with Protestant Unionist Loyalist culture. Like the disciples we have confused following Jesus with religious and constitutional agendas. For too long the cross of Christ has been sacrilegiously draped in political propaganda and 'For God and Ulster' must again become 'For God and His glory alone.' (econi 1988). Now of course we can each hold healthy and legitimate loyalties to Crown or Republic but these must be held loosely in the light of eternity. As disciples of Jesus, uniting and expanding his kingdom comes before uniting Ireland or maintaining the United Kingdom. The biblical story is clear and we know the ending, earthly kingdoms rise and fall but God is from everlasting to everlasting. So we cling to the kingdom of God without compromise. But, the kingdoms of men are transitory and will ultimately fade. For some this is subversive and flirting close to treason, but this other-worldly perspective is vital for Christians involved in practical identity issues like flags and the border.
Jesus said some other uncomfortable things like: "I have not come to bring peace but a sword" and that "a person's enemies will be those of his own household" (Matthew 10). Let's be clear: the peace God brings is often very different to the 'peace' of this world. I know a guy who recently told his family he was resigning his membership of an Order as he no longer felt it was helpful to sharing Jesus with his Catholic colleagues. He was told by his mother that she'd rather he had become a Muslim or come out as gay than betray his forefathers, his country and the Protestant faith. Now there's lots I could say about that but it's clear that seeking God's kingdom is a surefire way to annoy those defending earthly kingdoms. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God….but they'll also be called naïve, traitors and many other un-printables.
This is difficult stuff, it would almost be easier if we had a new identity or were even born again…oh wait. This article's full of uncomfortable questions, so why finish with a whimper, here's a few more…
- Is the biggest reconciliation gap for most 'middle class' Christians now between themselves and working class loyalists? How did we let class creep into churches anyway?
- Are we champions of truth and love even when it's uncomfortable? Ballymurphy and Kingsmill?
- How do we persuade Christians in politics to pursue God's humility and grace above this world's power and pride?