What do each of the following have in common?
I would like to suggest that each is a potentially valuable or potentially dangerous tool. Each has been used to revolutionize for good and for evil. Each can liberate or oppress. As a tool, though, they are not a truth reflecting a standard or ideal.
I recently re-read Brian McLaren’s book “Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crisis, and a Revolution of Hope“. Last summer I read the book “Kingdom Come: How Jesus Wants to Change the World” by Allen Wakabayashi. In between there have been a number of influential sermons at my home church of Twin City Bible Church, podcasts from Mars Hill in Grand Rapids, MI, and Red Letter Christian and Sojourners blog posts.
Combined, these have me looking afresh at Jesus’ teachings and ministry specifically, and of the Bible more generally. I am coming to appreciate how revolutionary, how radical, that message is if we can but move beyond the blinders of our current cultural and political systems. Indeed, Jesus himself continually worked to help his closest followers understand that he was not here to fight his current cultural and political system, the Roman empire, nor to support it, nor to escape it. Instead, he came to bring a new kingdom, one that liberates the oppressed, that sets the captive free, that brings sight to the blind.
This kingdom is now all about us, unfolding moment by moment. Today we see in part, but when Jesus returns we will see in full as the old kingdom passes once and for all. But often our love and dedication to tools, to things, keep us from seeing the new kingdom. Indeed, this focus on tool keeps us from participating in the process of bringing about that new kingdom as God’s hands and feet. Said another way, we let the tools separate us from God and his call for our lives — we sin.
The right tool at the right time in the right hands is a powerful mechanism for carrying out a project. At the start of this lenten season, I confess that I often forget the things listed at the start of this post are just tools. I accept the grace and forgiveness that Christ’s blood has brought. And I ask for wisdom and guidance to learn how to use those tools I’ve been given the gift to harness to help bring about God’s new kingdom. I pray that I learn to use these and other tools to enter into relationship with the poor and oppressed, to allow them to help me remove the log from my own eyes, to bring light to the injustice and oppression around me, and to fight side-by-side for the liberation of all.