True prophets call it like God sees it. Their words will make you rub your eyes. Why then are we seeing no difference between American Christianity and the American empire?
Their messages begin with, “This is what the Lord says.” When the people of God want to go their own way or look the other way, these seers tell it like it is.
There is a stark contrast between them and those smooth-talking, snake-oil-selling false prophets who will say anything you want to hear for money and relevance. But courageous prophetic speech is not manageable and cannot be capitalized on.
It’s not bumper sticker-ready: “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” No, many Christians still wrestle with God’s messages.
“Wrestling with Scripture, far from a sign of weakness, is a reflection of religious faithfulness,” William Sloane Coffin wrote in Struggling with Scripture. “What else should you wrestle with if not the Bible? What struggle offers more reward?”
Scripture doesn’t pair well with simplistic three-point sermons or bumper stickers that could easily read, “Trump said it, I believe it, that settles it.” For Christians who espouse this view, I question if we see Jesus the same way. Because this looks more like a red flag than Jesus’ red words.
Consequently, it is clear to me that the North American church needs to be born again. We need a fresh pair of eyes.
The North American church doesn’t need to go back to the drawing board. Instead, I am imploring its members to go back to the water of baptism and start from the beginning with its leader.
“Jesus got into all manner of trouble because of whom he saved. Jesus saved people who nobody thought could be saved or even wanted to be saved,” William Willimon wrote in Why Jesus?
Saul, the murderer turned missionary, is a good example. He calls into question our exclusive Christology and he does it as a nationalist Jew, who will go on to found multinational communities of faith.
Saul reminds us that you and I can do the wrong thing for all the right reasons. We can be the best at it, but it doesn’t make it right.
It can be a part of our traditions and history, but it doesn’t make it right. We can have permission and the paperwork to do it, but it doesn’t make it right. It’s all in the way we see it.
Saul has every reason to believe that there is nothing wrong with murdering Christians. They deserve it.
It is the way he was raised. It is just a part of his training. He is just doing his job.
It is the way that things have always been done. He is killing Jesus’ disciples and he may even feel called to do it.
In Acts, Stephen’s head is being crushed, and Saul sees nothing wrong with it. Christian lives don’t matter.
Saul challenges our concept of right and wrong people, good and bad people, wheat and tare people, heaven- and hell-bound people. Saul was an enemy of the church, a felon turned church father.
Scale-eyed Saul, he started out on the wrong side of history. Can you see any similarities?
Maybe there’s no actual blood on your hands. But are you threatening your church’s survival by withholding financial support unless they agree with your political ideology?
Are you willing to throw rocks, metaphorically speaking, at the next generation of believers because we must hold fast to our traditions? Are you persecuting Christians because they don’t practice the faith the way that you do?
And if you’ve never seen it that way before, then I might have given you a fresh pair of eyes.