Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Politics of Jesus Chapter 2: The Kingdom Coming (Part 2)

The Platform: Luke 4:14ff
Yoder is careful to note that both John the Baptist and Jesus use the phrase, “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the good news.” There is no getting around that fact that the average reader sees “gospel” and “kingdom” and that they understand the meaning of “kingdom” even more than they do “the gospel.” The idea of a kingdom of God is decidedly a political concept (35).
He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor;
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives;
And recovering of sight to the blind;
To set at liberty those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the acceptable year of Yahweh.

This passage from Isaiah 61 was read by Jesus in the synagogue and then turned upon himself. Yoder argues that this verse (particularly the last sentence) is a proclamation of the start of a new Jubilee year by Jesus. This is a reading of the text which I certainly have no issues with.
If anyone does not hate father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters,
Yea, and even his own life,
He cannot be my disciple.

The Christian is called to a lifestyle, whereby the cross is the culmination.
The kings of this earth lord it over their subjects;
But it shall not be so among you…
For I am among you as one who serves.

Yoder notes that, “In none of the accounts where this word is reported does Jesus reprimand his disciples for expecting him to establish some new social order, as he would have had to do if the thesis of the only-spiritual kingdom were to prevail. He rather reprimands them for having misunderstood the character of that new social order which does intend to set up (46).

Characteristics of the disciples conducive to social change (46-7):
-A visible structured fellowship
-Sober decision guaranteeing that the costs of commitment to the fellowship have been consciously accepted
-A clearly defined lifestyle distinct from that of the crowd
-Commitment to an exceptionally normal quality of humanness. This distinctness is not a cultic or ritual separation, but rather a nonconformed quality of (“secular”) involvement in the life of the world.

Other evidence of the political import of what Jesus was doing:
1. The formation of the inner-team comprising former Zealots and former publicans
2. The symbolic number twelve
3. The first mission of the twelve (which was Herod’s first perplexity about Jesus (47).

Basically, Jesus wasn't just a moralist whose teachings were of some political import. Nor was he mainly a spiritual teacher whose teachings were unfortunately seen in a political light. He was not simply a sacrificial lamb biding time to his sacrifice.

Could this be Yoder's greatest weakness? It seems that the Bible is more than a book about just being saved, but likewise it seems that those who follow Yoder fall into the opposite tendency of being primarily political and known for what they hate (war, injustice, poverty, etc.) than for what they love. In other words, those who spiritualize everything are wrong, but those who politicize everything are mistaken, as well.

Kingdom life is lived out by people who are dual citizens - citizens of heaven and citizens of earth. This means that we must find a way of living as Christians, but it doesn't necessarily mean changing the world around us through legislative means (and by implication through the sword, since those who are disobedient are threatened by the sword of the state), but rather by persuasion. This, as I understand it, is a sentiment shared both by Yoder and those who are of the two kingdoms persuasion.

Yoder accuses those of the two-kingdom persuasion of having an under-realized eschatology (of course, as an amillenialist I think it's important to remember that we are not yet in the "age to come," so in a sense, my eschatology cannot be realized until Christ comes in judgment on this world). But one might likewise accuse Yoder of the opposite error.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, I constantly feel as though I'm nudging up against over-realized Yoderians (especially in the blogosphere). My guess is that they could all use a healthy shot of simul iustus et peccator to keep their grandiose visions of Christian influence in check.


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