Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Revolution

“Every generation needs a new revolution.”—Thomas Jefferson

It amazes me how many thousands of men and women willingly leave everything behind to answer the call when their country goes to war. Families are separated, careers put on hold, studies suspended, lives rearranged. I wonder how many of us would drop everything and willingly go into harm’s way when Jesus calls. That’s exactly what he demanded in Mark 1:14-20, which includes Jesus’ first recorded sermon. And, unlike most sermons, it was short and imperative: Repent! Believe! Follow me! There’s a sense of urgency in Jesus’ words.

Jesus told people first of all to repent. It’s not popular today to talk about sin. It’s not popular, but it’s the loving thing to do. German Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Nothing is so cruel as the tenderness that consigns another to his sin. Nothing is more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin.”

Why was Jesus so urgent? Because the kingdom of God is “at hand.” The kingdom is not just in some distant future. It’s here! Paradoxically, God’s kingdom is both a future and present reality—both “now” and “not yet.” In a real sense, the kingdom we’re expecting and praying for (“thy kingdom come”) has already arrived. We’re like underground revolutionaries who have been waiting a long time and are now being told it’s time to start the revolution. To misquote Karl Marx, “Sinners have nothing to lose but their chains. They have the world to gain. Sinners of the world, repent and believe the Good News!” It’s a radical reinvisioning of society more revolutionary than Communism. Just read the Sermon on the Mount.

But unlike Communism, the movement Jesus began is a non-violent revolution. (“My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight,” John 18:36; “Do not resist evil.” Matt. 5:39) Isn’t that kind of . . . weak? Exactly! (“My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:9) In combat my Marines used to marvel at me, “Chaplain, you don’t even carry a weapon. You’re the bravest one out here!” (Yeah, whatever.)

People are looking for something greater than themselves. Something they can believe in. Something they can live for. Something worth dying for. Only the something is really someone. His name is Jesus, and he’s still looking for a few good men . . . and women.

Are you ready to join the revolution?

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