Posted by: rogermitchell | May 25, 2011

The gospel is spiritual and political

My final day or two in Nigeria and the journey home all took a bit more time than expected, so I am only now ready to post the material on the topic of ‘releasing deliverers into governance’ that my Nigerian friends asked me to address. In order to set the context I will underline three key points. So apologies for those who have been clicking on in hope!

The first is to emphasise that the gospel, while consisting of the good news of the availability of spiritual rebirth through the incarnation of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, expresses itself in a way of life that confronts and subverts the dominating politics of this world. The second is to remember that the word ecclesia, generally translated ‘church’, which is adopted by Jesus in Matthew 16:18, is a technical word that up to that point specifically referred to the body or council of those having the agreed authority to make decisions for the city. Graham Ward in The Politics of Discipleship notes the same political origin for the word ‘liturgy’, which was a word used to describe a public service rendered to the city.

It follows, in my view, that although the new creation that embodies the individual and corporate being of the body of Christ today which I attempted to outline in the post before last, must be distinguished from the marriage with the political system of empire that has characterised it for seventeen hundred years, this by no means results in it remaining anything other than a political body. Not party political or providing automatic support for the national state domination system but free to pursue the politics of God’s way of rulership, or as in the title my African friends gave me ‘releasing deliverers into governance’.

The source of this latter phrase is the little prophecy of Obadiah, from where it is possible to exegete through the revelation of Christ that it is the role of the deliverer to make the land a wide, free, open place for all the people who live there. The root of the Hebrew word for deliverer in Obadiah is “open, wide or free” (v21) and Jacob and Joseph stand for blessing all the families of the earth, whereas Edom, or Esau (v18), in this context, stands for selling this destiny for the immediate prosperity and comfort of yourself and your own house. Jesus is the fullness of this deliverer role for he came to rule, or govern, as the wise men asked (Mtt 2:2) and the angel said to the shepherds (Lk 2:11).

It is clear from the gospel testimony that Jesus did not come to found a religious organisation, but to rule. His ecclesia is called to rule in and through him now (Lk 12:32). The ecclesia is not the purpose of his work, but the means by which his rule is accomplished (Mtt 6:33). But Jesus’ kingdom rule is opposite to the Edom system. True majesty rules like Jesus (Lk 22:25-27, Phil 2:3-11; Heb 1:1-3). We need to be discipled into this loving way of governance otherwise we are bastards (Heb 12:6,15). As previous posts on this blog have made clear, the priorities of God’s governance involve giving ourselves for the needs of the world (Jn 3:16), having compassion for the multitude (Mtt 9:36), putting the poor and the stranger first (Lk 6:20, Jn 4) choosing God’s will not bread for ourselves, service not domination, humility not status (Mtt 4:3-11; Lk 4:1-13), and confronting the powers of selfish domination at the right time, even when it costs everything (Jn 19:11-19).

It is the task of the church to disciple the world, but as my thesis and this blog has consistently argued there is a real problem. The church itself has been partly colonised by the world system since Constantine’s time. This is the source of the mixture of blessing and oppressing that has characterised Western Christianity and was carried into Africa by European mission and colonisation and locked onto the dominating rule of the existing African system. Deliverers are needed for the church as well as the nation or we will be seen to be without integrity and will release the wrong kind of leaders who won’t be saviours but will perpetuate the old system. The outpourings of the century of the Holy Spirit carry the power to restore God’s kingdom rule (Rom 14:17) but they need to be understood, experienced and applied in the context of an ecclesia which is the expression of God’s politics.

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Responses

  1. ‘releasing deliverers into governance’ – what a fantastic phrase. So much of what i have been learning is to do with governance, so much of what is on my heart is to do with how governance is worked out in the community. Well if I can be a part of that, it would be amazing

  2. it just struck me that all of our frantic attempts to organize and manage the church not only demonstrates the spirit of empire but also demonstrates a gross distrust of God’s ability to manage things. We seem to think that to get anything done, especially anything that might bring around those things we believe are of the Kingdom, well that God might not come through, and hey, we better get on it.

    To strike out, willing to go where God leads, to follow into the unknown without a community in place to hold our hands, well, that seems rather more than most of us might have the faith to do. I mean, there is such a huge chance that God might fail us and then what?

    To be released as deliverers into governance (fabulous phrase) means we first must be willing to experience that release ourselves in the terms of what governs us – belief or unbelief.
    c.

  3. May God send us many deliverers who govern:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/post_2060_b_867183.html

    c.

  4. Hey Roger,

    Love how you have summed up so much of what we do. Thank you for breathing life and freshness back into why we do what we do.

    • Hi Steve,
      It’s good to hear from you. Big thanks for the encouragement!


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