Daily(ish) Blogging in Lent 2016 - Day Four
|the armed centurion watches the son of God die|
Lent begins with a cross on the forehead. In worship, the cross becomes the center point, a focal point in our communal worship spaces. On it, there is a man, a God, suffering at the hands of those in power—religious authorities, political authorities—those who had permission to kill publicly, to “set an example” with guns and laws on their side, so that (sans revolution) there was no risk of real retaliation. Some have called crucifixion "state sponsored terrorism." I believe those people are right.
Even the guard, sympathetic, “this man was the Son of God (Mark 15:39),” would only stand by with the women and Jesus’ mother and John, they rendered helpless by him and his armed compatriots—even the guard with his spear and his shield, his title and his uniform and his pension believed himself to be helpless to change. And he stood there, watching. “This is just the way it is.” “Might as well make a living.”
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. - Matthew 10:34
It turns out that though God in God’s very nature is Love, is loving relationship, coeternal, coequal, and so on. Though God is rightfully said to be Beloved, Lover, and Love; people, aren’t. We’re not those things. People, by circumstance, by virtue of being born, are simply in relationship. Love is something we have to work toward. Coequality is still a dream, a destination.
“Justice is what love looks like in public,” says Cornel West. Justice takes liberation because justice isn’t “revenge.” Rather, liberative justice takes a shift in power—true justice, true liberation means the oppressed aren’t oppressed anymore, power is shared, coequally, coeternally. No one is "least."
This means love in public is a source of conflict. Always. For love to manifest, the lowly need to be lifted and the powerful need to be brought down (Luke 1:52). The first shall be last, the last shall be first (Matthew 20:16). The humble shall be exalted (Luke 14:11). Love threatens the powerful.
Justice takes conflict. Without tension, the status quo remains. And the status quo crucifies. All the time.
I come not “to bring not peace, but a sword.” What is Jesus saying to us?
Sometimes when we say “I don’t do politics,” what we mean to say is “I don’t like conflict.” “I don’t like confrontation.” “I like everyone to like me.” "I'm likable and peaceful and I intend to stay that way."
I say this. I like people to like me. Yet every time I take a stand with my peers and colleagues for a just and liberative cause, we create tension and conflict. People name us "enemy." People name me an enemy—me! But I’m such a nice guy! I'm all about the Love!...
Sometimes I even wonder what it would be like to go back to being “the nice guy.” If I think about it long enough, I realize that it would be terrible.
"Those who live in Love live in God, and God lives in them (1 John 4:16)."
Love threatens the powerful.
When we move the cross to the center of our lives, we realize that the cross is not there simply to be gazed upon. Though peace it may bring to our spirits as we sit in the presence of Love the Spirit, the Spirit within moves us to take a position—to stand at the cross, with the Crucified in every time and place, to stand with the Crucified in our time and place, and to cry out, “NO MORE CRUCIFIXION!”
In the words said by many of my favorite organizers, we’re not called “to admire the problem. Rather, we are called to address it.”
We don't have to stand there and watch. We can fight the good fight for systemic change.
May the Spirit give us the peace we need in order to discern the battles in which the Spirt is calling us to engage, for the sake of liberative justice, for the humbled, the lowly, the oppressed, the Crucified, and therefore for the sake of us all, Christ's Body, awaiting Resurrection.