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He Will Reign – Won’t He?

One of the challenges in building a brand is to ensure that prospects receive a consistent message concerning value proposition. The Church fathers and Emperor Constantine addressed this problem in the fourth century, establishing the Nicean dogma and creed that the Catholic Church and its heretical variants enforced through preaching, training and – in the breach, until recently – torture and death.

Normally, we’d talk of offended authority as “spinning in the grave.” In this case, given the last, we must be glad for Jesus’s resurrection, because otherwise the globe would have been whirling around his tomb.

The early Church fathers, confronted with the evidence of civil decay following the decline of the Roman Empire, seem to have concluded that empire was a part of God’s plan of salvation. They spent the twelve centuries following Nicea working to centralize political authority in Europe. At the end of that era, Renaissance Europe sprouted a dozen kingdoms capable of reproducing the accomplishments of Rome. Their response to Church meddling was to interfere in Papal selection, and when coming out on the losing end of that struggle, to support the rise of reforming heresies.

So what might Christ think of that?

In Scripture, I see three high points in the relationship between Humanity and God. The first is in Eden, where Adam and Eve experienced the ravishing grace of a direct relationship with God. Next is the era of Judges immediately following the entry into the Promised Land. The Hebrews as a people lived in gratitude for the Father’s gift, and when their occupancy was threatened, God found heroes to guide them through danger. That era ended with the people throwing their trust onto the human institution of monarchy. In the final act, Jesus arrives to expose the iniquity of the human institutions of his day, and proclaims that redemption is not bound by any contract or tradition, but is available to all the peoples of the Earth.

The modern Dominionist interprets this proclamation as a call to spread the institutions of Christianity across all the globe. The question is: what is the true church? Or is it simply enough that each individual should recognize Christ as lord and master in his heart?

Jesus is a little coy on this point, stating [John 10:14-16]:

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.

In The Soul Comes First, I consider the parallels between the spiritual trajectory in Judaism (culminating with Jesus) and Buddhism. In Islam and Christ, I examine the choices made in the formulation of Islam, choices made to facilitate such developments in cultures still practicing polytheism.

These insights, supported by the evolution of the covenant recorded in the Bible, lead me to the conclusion that Unconditional Love reaching to us from Christ meets us where we are. It does not care about structures and institutions, and in fact idolatry is often evident in human attempts to sustain those forms. Rather, as Jesus says, it enters into our lives in twos that grow into threes, thereby empowering us to care for one another.

Witnessing the end of this process, John testifies of the “New Jerusalem”, that {NIV Rev. 21:22]:

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

Remember that Jesus does not ask us to submit, but to learn [NIV Matt 11:29]:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

And [Math 20:28]

…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

The temple of God is the individual human heart. His age is consummated when we allow his sensibility to enter into us. As I said recently to a priest:

Sometimes words serve no purpose, and the only thing I can do is to allow the broken heart of Christ within me to speak for itself.

It is when we offer our hearts as he did, offering them in the service of supporting the weary and burdened, that his will for us is achieved. This is a service beyond understanding, for we cannot explain all the suffering in the world. It is beyond us, having its origins billions of years ago, and woven into our living through the predatory competition that is Darwinian evolution. All that we can do, as Jesus did, is to offer ourselves in the service of healing the wounds it has created.

So is the modern fragmentation of Christianity – exposing contradictory messages that erode faith – is that fragmentation a problem? Or should it be interpreted as the process by which Christ dissolves the human institutions that stand between the seeker and Unconditional Love? If Eden was the ideal, should we not be seeking to recreate that ideal for every man and every woman? And if that is the goal, how can we doubt Christ’s word that he will gather all of his flocks – all of those traditions that declare a covenant and discipline that opens our hearts to the power of Divine Love – how can we believe that any one of them will be unreconciled to Christ? Or judge any of them as inferior to our own path?

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