Saturday, August 29, 2009

Authority (9) - Pragmatic Strategy

Christian will sometimes voluntarily submit to political powers. Peter advised the Christians in Asia to submit to the Roman Empire for the sake of the gospel (1 Pet 2:12-13). Confrontation with Roman power would be pointless, because any resistance would be crushed in an instant. Christians should not get side tracked into a conflict they could not win. Peter was not legitimising Rome’s power, but urging Christians to get with sharing the gospel. Voluntary submission was a pragmatic strategy, not acknowledgment of delegated authority from God.

The gospel will slowly and surely change society from the bottom up, so Christians do not need to worry about human government. God will deal with it when he is ready. When his people have transformed society by the gospel and the Spirit, he will sweep the political powers away. That is what happened to Rome. The gospel worked away under the radar. The empire eventually collapsed under its own weight, but the church survived, grew stronger, and spread throughout the world.

The world uses force to overthrow evil political powers. This strategy always fails, because evil cannot be overcome by evil. A good kingdom cannot advance by military force and political power.

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight… but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36).
Jesus does need force to advance the kingdom, because his Kingdom comes in a totally different way. His strategy is different and better.

Christians should ignore the political powers and get on with spreading the gospel. We should not try to re-capture existing political institutions (that do not work anyway), but should get on with creating alternative ones that do deliver peace and fullness of life. Christians should start creating real communities that can deliver just justice, safe defence and real welfare. We should be ready to serve the world with an alternative when God sweeps away the political powers.

The judges that emerge in local communities will have authority, but it comes from below. Wise people will be given authority to decide cases and impose restitution by the people in their communities that recognise their wisdom. This authority will be voluntary, limited and temporary. It will be voluntary, because people will choose a judge to hear their case. It will be limited, because the judge will only be given authority to deal with a particular case. Once the case decided and the restitution has been assessed and paid, the authority of the judge will vanish. If a judge starts making bad decisions, people will stop bring cases to them and their temporary authority will permanently disappear.

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