The Power of Love versus the Love of Power is the perennial problem of our world, as stated by British Bishop N.T. Wright of the Anglican Church. He is an excellent author whose book Simply Good News just came out. It is amazing. Its message is similar to his book How God became King. Both books are so accessible and add such clarity in a world that sees more gray than black and white. His premise is that Jesus has been made King through the power of love, not the love of power.
He makes salient points about the contrast between the split-world understanding of creation by neo-Deists who want to promote the relegation of a powerless God to the nether regions of some far-off heaven, and the “Sweet Jesus” theocrats who not only want Jesus on the throne of their hearts, but in every sphere of life as well. The former group is so earthly minded that God is left out of all decision-making, while the latter group is so focused on having Jesus in their hearts and getting to heaven that they’re so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good!
Tom Wright wants us to see Jesus and his Kingdom as a present reality that is truly Good News, not just the pabulum most churches offer through “good advice.” The Gospel of Jesus Christ turns the kingdoms of this world on their heads, defeats evil, death, and oppression, and asks all Christ-followers to join this grand project of deliverance in the here and now. Secularists are more than willing to believe in progress even though anyone with good sense knows that we’re heading in the opposite direction.
“Gress” is the Latin word for “step,” so “progress” means to “step forward,” “digress” means to “side step,” or go in at least two directions, “regress” means to step backwards, and, interestingly enough, “congress” means to “step together.” How’s that working for the US Congress? The US congress hardly ever steps together on any one issue. Our red state vs. blue state world pits people against people, along with religions, ideologies, theologies, and about every other divisive matter.
Tom Wright writes in a most pithy way about the bifurcation that we all experience in this world of opposing opinions. Two perspectives are central in our world conflicts. One either claims God has “left the building,” or one is only interested in the things of earth enough so that we’ll get our ticket punched for heaven. Wright splits the difference between these opposites, and proclaims a Jesus who radically alters our current lives for his Kingdom here. Certainly, he doesn’t give up on the Biblical claim of an after-life, but declares that real “Good News,” the kind of Good news that forever changed the course of human history, did so not because of its otherworldly focus but precisely because it lived the real power of Jesus’ love in the mire and muck of humanity’s existence!
Listen to his statement that says it much better than I can attempt, “Part of the good news in our own culture is that this split-level world doesn’t have the last word. There is an integrated world-view, and it’s available right now. The trouble is that both the secularists and fundamentalists are committed to not noticing it. The secularist lives downstairs and has locked the door at the bottom of the stairs (to keep God out). The fundamentalist live upstairs, though he constantly shouts down the stairs to tell people they should be coming up to join him.” Oh, too accurate!
Jesus, the God who has become King, is not dependent on human progress. So-called human progress gave us two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and more efficient ways to communicate our disdain for each other. Videos of beheadings and fiery deaths remind us that we humans cannot solve our own problems. We can make advances in medical science and educational instruction, but one cannot root out our core problem through progress. If we expect the Lord’s Prayer to come true, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” then we need to confess and believe this extraordinary news: His kingdom has come. At least it has been inaugurated until its ultimate and complete fulfillment. In the mean time we cannot think that being civilized people will save us from self-destruction. Using good advice is helpful, but who believes that “playing nice” will bring justice for all and make the world “a better place?” No, we believe that Jesus alone conquered sin and death and that reality redirects, sets right, transforms, and redeems the people and institutions of this world. Through Jesus the whole creation finds an answer for its groans.
The question raised by N.T. Wright’s Simply Good News is whether we will be a church that offers good advice to people on how to live, behave, and get along or whether we will embrace the sheer glory of Jesus Christ, our only Savior, and not only ours but the Savior of the world. If we do the latter we will experience the birth pains of God’s kingdom, the already and not yet, his mighty will done on earth. The church hands out good advice all the time like a band aid on a gaping mortal wound when it is high time for it to proclaim GOOD NEWS: Jesus wins! Not this side, that side, progressive or traditional, red state or blue. Until this planet reflects Isaiah 11:1-10 and trumpets Psalm 96 we will flounder after this and that “solution” to what ails us when the Good News has already dwelt among us. Let him who has an ear, hear! Good news that depends on us and what we do or think is neither good nor news. It has been tried before and found wanting. I think that it’s time to believe and live the statement, “Jesus Christ is Lord!” Jesus is better than a band aid!