Saturday, May 12, 2007

Renewing Creation: Jesus vs Caesar, Part 2

Rob Bell in his book, "Velvet Elvis", writes:
Not only were these first Christians subverting the dominant power structure of their world, but they were confident that the resurrected Christ was working in them and through them to reclaim God's dream for the world. ... [Luke wrote that] "God's grace was so powerfully at work in them that there were no needy persons among them."
Remember, the [Roman] caesars claimed they were the ones who provided for everyone and saved everyone and made the world a better place. For these first Christian, the question was, Who is Lord? Jesus or Caesar? Who orders society? Who provides for you? Who puts food on your table? Who brings peace to the world?

To be a part of the church was to join a countercultural society that was partnering with God to create a new kind of culture, right under the nose of the caesars. These Christians made sure everybody in their midst had enough to eat. They made sure everybody was able to pay their bills. They made sure there was enough to go around. The resurrection for them was not an abstract spiritual concept; it was a concrete social and economic reality. God raised Jesus from the dead to show the world that Jesus is Lord, and it is through his power and his example and his Spirit that the world is restored.
Everybody's god in the first century had risen from the dead. To claim a resurrection had occurred was nothing new: Julius Caesar himself was reported to have ascended to the right hand of the gods after his death. To try to prove there was an empty tomb wouldn't have gotten very far with the average citizen of the Roman Empire; they had heard it all before. This is why so many passages about the early church deal with possessions and meals and generosity. They understood that people are rarely persuaded by arguments, but more often by experiences. ... They saw it as their responsibility to put Jesus' message on display.
And so these first Christians passed on the faith to the next generation who passed it on to the next generation .... It is our turn to rediscover the beautiful, dangerous, compelling idea that a group of people, surrendered to God and to each other, really can change the world.

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