Thursday, December 10, 2015

Before all nations

The shame of Islam is jihad undertaken as aggressive warfare to subdue non-Muslim peoples by the sword. Whenever this is pointed out, the Crusades are cited as the Christian equivalent, but history amply proves that the Crusades were not jihad. They were at best defensive and offensive warfare waged to recover lands that Islam had conquered, and at worst, a political mechanism masterminded by the Church of those days to redirect the aggressive energies of the unregenerate. If Europeans could not be persuaded by the Church to stop killing each other, at least let them kill and plunder outside the boundaries of the Christian world. This observation is the key, however, to the shame of Christianity.

The shame of Christianity is harder to name—colonialism, imperialism, chauvinism, what can it be called, as it includes at least these three? The shame consists in saying ‘yes’ to what Jesus commands, but then going and doing the opposite, or at least nothing. The shame of Christianity is that having access to the full knowledge and blessing of God, it plays with its privileges, hides behind its worldly accomplishments, encrusts itself with riches and power, and plunders the unsaved world it was established by Christ to redeem. ‘The white man’s burden’ was once a convenient claim to mask its subversion of the gospel, but today, abandoning that pretension, under the new name of humanism, it continues to rape the planet.

Wait! There are good Christians who do follow Christ, who do what He commands, and who really do hunger and thirst after righteousness. I agree. The same can be said of Muslims. There are those who do not hold to a jihad that is aggression against others, who live and work for the peace that they say Islam is all about. But Islamic jihad exists, even thrives, at this moment in history, as an effect of a prior cause, the wanton neglect of the gospel precepts by the rich and powerful of this world, who are without doubt the overlords of Christendom, but who have abused their trust, and denied the Lord who says, ‘the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45).

This is not a diatribe against anyone, Muslim or Christian. It is not a defense of Islamic jihad or an attack on Christian worldliness. It is a plea to those who have been given the power to ‘become the sons and daughters of God’ (John 1:13) by the very Incarnation of the Word and Son of God that we are about to celebrate. That Incarnation was an historical event. The Divine Nature entered into human nature by becoming one of Their own creatures, a man, a complete and perfect man. But the Incarnation didn’t stop there. It not only was, but it is. It is, it is still happening whenever we let it, whenever we do not, like Herod, try to ‘nip it in the bud,’ try to prevent its birth by slaughtering its innocents.

We say we believe, not only in Jesus Christ’s first coming, born as a babe in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, but also in His coming again. The Western Church remembers this in its current season of Advent, believing ‘He shall come again to judge the quick and the dead, whose Kingdom shall have no end.’ So we Christians of all stripes believe in a universal threefold radiance—He was, He is, He is to come—and dogmatize the One God as a Triad of three Divine Persons. But with all these advantages we have over the world, for all this Light that has dawned on us who once walked in darkness—what has been done by us who have been given power to become the sons and daughters of God?

To remember the Incarnation, not as an historical event but as an invasion of time by Eternity, to celebrate it not by a carefully balanced exchange of gifts, but by the unreserved giving of ourselves to the One who was born and laid in a manger, so that He may offer us to His heavenly Father, to be transfigured as He was on the holy mount Tabor. To observe not by watching only, but by participation in, the Divine Incarnation ‘who was, who is, and who is to come’ (Revelation 1:8), not only on the days appointed, but on the Day which, once begun in us, is without end. Yes, to remember, to know, and to practice what we believe to be true, that between the first and second comings of our Lord, there is nobody here but us.

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

Isaiah 61:10-11

No comments: