Posted by: rogermitchell | August 14, 2011

the mystery of lawlessness

This is a brief post aimed to communicate a crucial prophetic perspective as follows:

As I see it, the mystery of lawlessness that Paul writes about (in 2 Thessalonians 2: 3 & 7), refers to the way in which the structures of law, state and religion, are framed and implemented to benefit and safeguard the interests and sovereignty of the rich and powerful.  This is of course the case in our Western liberal representative democracies. While human rights and the vote are invoked, the system is already skewed so that the extension of opportunity to the rest of the population is still only to an extent commensurate with maintaining the position and influence of the already  wealthy and powerful. But this, I believe is really lawlessness.

This is why the rioters, and those who, as Billy rightly points out in his comment on the previous post, live more covertly this way in many of our inner cities and poorest housing areas everyday, while not to be praised or encouraged in their lifestyles, must be understood as the deep structural evidence of the true values of the West. This gives the lie to the populist politics so prevalent right now among the American Christian right, and sadly among some here in Europe, that the problem is too much social provision and benefit from the state. As if we have, or have ever had, an equal society in the West where equality of opportunity guarantees that if you work hard you can make it. There is no way we can return to, or sustain, this dream. It is, and for centuries always has been, only a dream used to mystify the lawlessness of our political foundations.

The fulness or katargēsis of law embodied in the kenarchy of Jesus is based in love, mercy and forgiveness, as earlier posts have emphasised. It is this which embodies the good news for the multitude that Jesus had, and still has, such compassion on. His ecclesia is called to understand and live out his life once again in the current political upheavals of the end of Christendom.



  1. well this pertains to a long conversation I just had this morning. Nailed Roger. So the future. If we can’t envision it we can’t make ways for it to happen. What is it we envision? How do love, mercy and forgiveness get worked out on the ground, in our cities and neighbourhoods, between nations, towards creation. We need lots and lots of visions – small ones and big ones. c.

    • oops, meant to say that you nailed it Roger. Left out a word there. I plead not enough sleep. c.

      • It’s fine, thought it was just your shorthand!

    • I agree, roll on the visions. As our Leeds friends would say, we don’t only need theory and clever ideas, we need practical action, and to hear the stories of the many who are living courageous lives in small and larger ways that disregard the accepted norms and embody justice and love. (The Leeds Summat in November will be a window on some of these.) But let’s not wait til then, but all you silent clickers who are doing all kinds of great stuff, or know of stories of others who are, please supply links and contacts!

  2. Hi Roger,
    Hope you understand that my comments were not made to justify this way of life but merely to point out that it exists everyday under our very noses,and only at times of severe stress does it surface like it did last week.
    the current system does indeed offer up the platitudes of the vote and our human rights but these are merely and illusion.Democracy has failed us ,and that can be seen even more strikingly in today’s world where parliament is at its least representative in generations.We have a political elite on both the right and the so called left and there ranks will close to protect the system that feeds them .

    • Thanks Billy, I appreciated your comments and certainly did not think that you were commending the behaviour of those who live beyond the so-called law and order of contemporary Western democracy. Like you, I am not against law and order, but the hypocrisy of a supposedly just system of law and order that excludes many of the multitude of humanity both within the West and among the poor of the earth beyond it.

  3. I think it’s interesting how many times the phrase “right in their own eyes” appears in Judges when Israel didn’t have a king “like other nations”. We’re living in a time of moral relativism when people are again quite free to do what is “right in their own eyes”. Isn’t this the mystery of lawlessness?

  4. Hi Gabriel,
    Thanks for the comment, but I don’t think you have got this quite right. It wasn’t because they hadn’t got a king that the people did what “was right in their own eyes,” but because there were no judges among them to empower, encourage and facilitate the people to make good choices even in difficult times. Such a situation would have been the opposite of lawlessness. The insistence on a king, although in the end God did not insist on his own way, and gave them one, was completely against God’s real character and advice, as Samuel tried to get the people to see. “Everyone doing what is right in their own eyes” is fine if people can see and relate to God’s character properly, which, as I understand it, is what the life, death and resurrection of Jesus enables us to do.
    However, instead of doing this, the church in the West embraced empire and kingship all over again and so contorted the shape of church and politics so that the rich and powerful once more dominated the rest. This looked lawful, but was really against God’s loving rule, and therefore lawless. Hence the “mystery of lawlessness.”

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