Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Was Jesus Political? A New Testament Perspective - 3

This is the 3rd and final installment of the full text of my lecture given at the OHMSI Inaugural Dialogue on September 15, 2007. Click here for Part 1 and Part 2 of the lecture.

4) The Implications for the Church Today

In the beginning of this paper, I have raised two questions.
1) Does Jesus exhibit any political awareness in his earthly ministry?
2) Do the multitude perceive the life, teaching and ministry of Jesus to be political?

After our brief consideration, we can only come to a conclusion that both Jesus and the multitude understood him as political, not in the narrow sense of gaining and maintaining powers in party politics, but in the broad sense of ensuring the good life of the community. This involves making decisions affecting social groups in terms of ethical values and priorities; proper and just economic allocation and distribution of resources; calling the political and religious establishments to integrity and transparency by exposing their inner corruption and abuse of power; and ultimately calling Israel to live as a people of God in light of God’s covenantal faithfulness, failing which, the dreadful judgement and the wrath of God would await them. Notice that all of these are carried out in the public square and not in the private sphere of religion.

What does this mean for the church today? As believers, Jesus not only summons us to a radically exclusive commitment and wholehearted devotion to him but also challenges us as a body of Christ to be the alternative assembly for the society. In this respect, the church is also political. This means that the church does not and cannot exist in isolation from the community that God has placed her.

Admitedly, in this paper, I will raise more questions rather than providing answers. Therefore, the questions for us are these: If we believe that if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation, could the church therefore be a social unit that undercuts even our biological and familial relations, demonstrating that the rule and reign of God does not belong to the distant future but is indeed a present reality in our midst where forgiveness, love and acceptance are our boundary markers and badges of identity? In this respect, would it be great that we as Christ-followers are known to our society by our practices – that we care about the environment; speak out against injustice, abuse of power and corruption; reach out to the poor and marginalized; investing our scarce resources to the training, educating and equipping the people of God rather than channelling them to build bigger and more expensive multi-million Ringgit facilities? Could greater Christian initiatives toward deeper racial reconciliation be appreciated in the church? Would the church be known as tranforming agents for our community and society? Would the church be known by her unity rather than disunity?

Can the church refuse the acceptance of the stand that privatises faith? Is the church willing to pay the price in seeking out and protecting those facing injustice and without a voice? Is the church courageous enough to call rulers away from tyranny and oppression towards embracing the Jubilee values of justice and mercy and principles of public servanthood and accountability?

Perhaps this is a good time to reflect on our role as a church, and it could not be more significant that we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Operasi Lalang next month. Where was the church when Operasi Lalang was mounted? Have we not learned our lessons? Or do we continue to choose to remain silent, disengage ourselves and retreat to our comfortable cocoon, deceiving ourselves that all that we need to do is pray and wait impatiently for the second coming of our Lord?

To conclude: How can we impact and influence the community that God has placed us? Taking the cue from the Parable of the Good Samaritan, have we in anyway defined who is our neighbour? Have we reduced others in the world as classifiable commodities by drawing distinctions between persons, deciding who is, and who is not, our neighbour? What are some of the factors that would discourage us to “go and do likewise” today? Perhaps it time we are reminded that we cannot define our neighbour. We can only be a neighbour. To be effective salt and light for the Lord, we need, first of all, to be a neighbour. Perhaps it is time we rethink whether the church of Jesus Christ today exist for the city or the city exist for the church? Does the church exist for the believers or the believers exist for the church?

--- THE END ---

For other perspectives on and response to the dialogue, please see:

1) OHMSI Inaugural Launch - Was Jesus Political? - Sivin Kit (check out the video for the opening and closing part of the event)

2) "Was Jesus political"? - Pearlie

3) Oriental Hearts & Mind Study Institute - Johnny Ong

4) How Was Jesus 'Political'? - Dave Chong

5) How Was Jesus 'Political'? - The Agora

6) Yesterday at OMHSI (sic) forum, "Was Jesus Political?" - Steven Sim

7) Was Jesus Political? - Tricia

No comments: