“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:15 NIVUK)
I woke up this morning at 7am and felt that urge to write about what has been troubling my mind for quite sometime now. This piece is full of questions, not answers!
If this disarming is just a heavenly reality shift, then what does it mean for us today? Has God forsaken us (Psalm 22), has the disarming only happened in an invisible, spiritual realm as opposed to the incarnational spiritual domain here on Earth? If so, then why did Christ arrive here in the flesh? Jesus shared in our humanity, a humanity without the ability to sustain goodness itself, deplete of the power to heal, to redeem. He was not the first to be crucified, but bled as we bled, shared in our limitations, our grief, our fragility. Why the incarnation if it was to be forgotten so quickly, or limited to a heavenly realm?
Or should we include earthly power and authority together in this disarming thought from Paul? Yes, I think we should.
If our calling is in heaven and our vocation here on Earth, does that mean the guarantee is somehow separate from the rest of life?
What if the battle in heaven was won, but the one on Earth was lost? Is that why Jesus scarpered? How do we consider our state? What if our calling is secure, but the out-working of it is destined to failure?
How do we deal with a Church that is a realigned member of the powers and authorities that Christ has disarmed? If we cut the umbilical cord, where, how do we then live? Like resistance fighters, like vagabonds and convicts? How do we sustain life?
If the last 1700 years have distorted and malformed the incarnational spirituality of Jesus, how do we get back to an authentic way of life? How do we become Followers of the Way (again)?
If we are gifted by God, why can we not live from/by our gifts here on Earth? What are the good of earthly gifts, when you can only be recognised in the heavenlies?
If the sacrifice of Christ was only enough to redeem, to disarm the heavenlies, then how should we live? How can we live? Why does the Spirit indwell us at the same time as our being forsaken? Why am I so ineffectual? Because the calling and the vocation are isolated from each other, somehow divorced? The great resources of heaven are still in heaven and if that continues, we are lost in the Wilderness we did not make, in a reality we inherited, that we did not choose as our home. In fact we are homeless, we are desolate souls, we have the smell of death about us and nothing we do can stop our corpse from rotting on the gibbet and ‘entertaining vultures unawares’. How can we attract others to this Way, when it offers no life on Earth, when it is a death sentence?
If the powers and authorities are disarmed, what is happening here on Earth? How is the will on earth done, as it is in heaven? How does ‘what you bind on earth will be bound in heaven operate? (Please note the order of things there). We are not puppets? What does this mean, right here, right now? For this time, for this age? Is what is here on Earth so powerful that it cannot be transformed,? If so, then why does God still want it to be changed? Is that the Divine will? If it is, then why is this rotting corpse writing this?
This is not abundant life, this life on a maintenance grant? Subsistence living!
“and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:9-11 NIVUK)
Therefore, it seems to me that I have become like Christ in His death, but with no hope of resurrection. If I press on to the prize, all it means to me right here, right now, is that faith in Christ cannot be lived here on Earth, but has to be lived elsewhere, out of this ‘corruptible’ body! We either conform and have our identities and personalities subsumed into the Ecclesial power, or we are cast aside, ignored by people of faith AND those who are currently lost.
Whilst reading about Jesus in Scripture, I see that the life He portrays, He embodies, is unliveable in this day and age. If it were possible, then we would not only experience the death of Christ in this life, but also the resurrection, or am I hoping for too much? Resurrection is not a principle, not a fine sounding idea, nor a noumenal truth; resurrection has to be lived, or it may as well be confined to Disneyland. There is nothing attractive to others in seeing a man continually hang on a cross. There is no need for curiosity, save for the gruesome elements of decay. We know he has been executed, we know he is dead. Who would want this life? There is no mystery here, but thinking of ourselves, we should be so ‘mysterious’ that people are compelled to ask what makes us tick, what moves us, what inspires us. That for me is the resurrection, which we are also supposed to share in! My appeal is to God, faith is either liveable or it is useless, to be cast off, burned at Gehenna along with my corpse.
If Paul is writing about the order of things, then before we share in the sufferings, we have to experience resurrection. Resurrection does not mean that we are always to hang on the cross, alive and unable to die. There is also a problem here that we consider only the cross as the sufferings of Christ. I note that it is plural, not singular; maybe the sufferings of Christ also means that throughout His life His compassion was not an emotional response to another’s hardship and suffering (mere sympathy, Jesus wept), but that He shared in the pain of others – the true meaning of compassion.
And so, where does this leave me? I can no longer claim like Job, that God doesn’t have the eyes of a man, to see as a man sees; for Jesus came here, was made of flesh, saw the harsh reality of life under occupation. He not only saw, but felt the calamity of life.
This age is not one of blessing, but of the censure of sin and the hardness of heart that follows the Institutionalisation of Jesus’ spirituality; of His life and teachings. Of formula over love. If some poor soul should consider this Christ in me attractive, then what would the communal life of faith look like? For we cannot live in a vacuum, we cannot live alone. I wouldn’t take any such person to my church, or any other for that matter, for that just places them at the hands of hierarchical tyranny and the moulding of slaves to an organisation; to the creed of conformity over diversity, of indeed, conformity dressed up as unity; of the will imposed from above, of serving not Christ but the Tyrannical Church. This is not the good news! Those who are dependent on such institutions are unable to create a serving community; they will always follow the pattern inculcated into their heart and imagination, that is, they will always create hierarchical dependency structures.
And so, where does this leave me? In the thrall of Constantine’s conspiracy and the domestication of God? Of God as a political tool, to sear the conscience of the rich and powerful, in that giving to the Sacred Church somehow cleanses them from their social sins: the oppression of the poor, the rape of the slave, the despoiling of the environment? But wait, why are they attracted to this Church? Maybe it’s because it has participated in all of those things? The question mark here is not to suggest doubt for this factuality?
The Church, this Church, in its current form mirrors the methods and modes of Christendom; a bygone age of utilising faith as a justification of political power and military might; of Empire over Kingdom. Gladly this cultural age of the Church is over, but the Institution still holds on to these forms of power. Why? Because power is such a seductive force. Who was it said, “the church that does not serve is no longer the church?” Kierkegaard? However, the Church does not want to serve, but wants to be served! Why would I put anyone seeking Jesus into their hands?
The world looks on, thinking it has seen and experienced the spirituality of Jesus, but it has only seen the corruption of it. How then should we live? How would Jesus live today?
Well, Jesus established a small serving community, which every year attended the big festivals in the capital, but stayed away from embracing the powers and authorities, because in the end He knew they were the ones who would execute Him; ‘execute justice’ an interesting phrase! Justice to save the nation, to show the power of Empire. Justice in such hands is merely a tool to express the ‘will to power’. Schopenhauer?
It was a mobile community, flexible to respond to the needs of people, not weighed down by an overbearing bureaucracy. The repentant rich supported those who worked amongst the people, because strangely those who were called to work amongst the poor were not socially advantaged!? Justice is not power at work, but compassion. The Church wants to use power today to get others to act on its own behalf; abortion, slavery, environment, persecution, a whole collection of human rights issues! But doesn’t the spirituality of Jesus warn us that the use of power makes us fall into the hands of the power and authority which was used to execute Him, but ironically, were consequently disarmed by that execution?
What does that mean for me today, for us today? Maybe this disarming is more akin to an unmasking, because the powers and authorities still seem to have oppressive grip and influence today. Perhaps in our disobedience, we have re-armed the powers and authorities; the Religious and Political regimes of ‘truth’? Maybe Jesus in His death was embarrassing those in power to show that the things they use to justify their position of authority, is actually a form of tyranny; that if we use such things we are just like ‘them’? Jesus warned us, that whatever is whispered in private will be shouted from the rooftops. How embarrassing?
Tom Wright notes:
“What went wrong is that human beings gave up their responsibility for God’s world and handed their power over to the powers. When humans refuse to use God’s gift of sexuality responsibly, they are handing over their power to Aphrodite, and she will take control. When humans refuse to use God’s gift of money responsibly, they are handing over their power to Mammon and he will take control. And so on. When the powers take over, human beings are crushed.”
p18. ‘Following Jesus; Biblical Reflections on Discipleship’. Published by Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994)
The spirituality of Jesus is a different Way, the Way of compassion. Of suffering with people, to set them free? Of sharing in the pain of people, to help them walk? Of sharing in their injustice to help them see hope? Of suffering in their death so that we all may live, right here, right now.
Peace (if only!)