A Resting Place

"It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me."

Friday, December 31, 2004

Politics at the Cross

I have been advocating for some time now a theology that centers around and is found in Christ. Christ-less theology and preaching is a terrible plague in 21st century evagelicalism. But as I've tried to work through the difficult issue of Christianity and politics, I forgot to take my own advice and make Christ and His cross the focal point. Reading an article by N.T. Wright is setting me straight on the matter:

Jesus, I have argued elsewhere, believed two things which gave him an interpretative grid for understanding his own vocation as leading to a violent and untimely death. First, he believed himself called to announce to Israel that her present way of life, whose focal point was resistance against Rome and whose greatest symbol was the temple, was heading in exactly the wrong direction. Down that road lay ruin - the wrath of Rome, the wrath of God. Second, he believed himself called to take Israel's destiny upon himself, to be Israel-in-God's-plan. What happens as the story reaches its climax, and Jesus sits on the Mount of Olives looking across at the temple, and beyond it to an ugly hill just outside the city wall to the west, is that the two beliefs fuse into one. He will be Israel - by taking Israel's destiny, her ruin, her destruction, the devastation of the temple, on to himself. He will be the point where the exile reaches its climax, as the pagan authorities execute Israel's rightful King. Only so can the kingdom come on earth (in socio-political reality) as it is in heaven (in the perfect will and plan of the Father). From this perspective, to say that Jesus' death itself was a 'political' act cannot be to divorce it (against the grain of all first-century Judaism) from its 'theological' implications. On the cross politics and religion, as well as love and justice and a host of other abstractions, meet and merge. Only from the perspective of the cross, shattering as it was to Jesus' followers then as it should be now, can any view of politics, and hence of the 'state', claim to be Christian.


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