(Picture: Paulo Gamba through Creative Commons)
Ever watched a sports game and your team seems to have everything go against it? Like there are some outside forces, beyond our control, deciding the destiny of our team? Or you see a film, or read a book, and you just ‘know’ what is going to happen? Like there are forces beyond your control which are controlling the destiny of the characters?
The reason we empathise so much with this is because they speak into something real – and I’m not just speaking of unseen, eternal supernatural forces which Christians – and many others – believe exist. These concepts also ring true because many of us have a strong suspicion there are other unseen forces at work in this world.Powers which have no face. No visible presence. Nothing which can be pinned down.
But yet are so clearly at work.
Deep down most of us feel this – though we often leave to crazy, extremist conspiracy theorists to believe and express these ideas on our behalf. What I normally do is have a short ponder about these ideas, then sigh, get up and get on with my life. It’s just easier that way. But deep down most of us know there is more going on than we’d like to admit.
The names we most often give these powers are ‘the system’. The ‘status quo’. The ‘establishment’.
We know who they are. But at once, we have no idea. Their face is masked to us. We see them only through eyes trained on us. You don’t need to be a conspiracy theorist (and I’m not one) to know there is more going on in the world than meets the eye.
No one is allowed the buck the system for long. They cannot. Occasionally one may break through, but they are soon crushed.
Either they or their reputation are destroyed. Killed.
In fiction, we see this in Jay Gatsby. A visionary dreamer, almost a fantasist, who for the sake of love and an idealistic dream, bucks the system and becomes ‘new money’. Equal with the establishment. Equal with those who have been rich and powerful for generations. The cost is him becoming a criminal. A bootlegger.
What happens? A madman, provoked by an establishment figure, “old money”, comes and kills him.
Have we not seen this model anywhere else?
Men committed to radical change, but who the ones with the ‘real’ power could not tolerate. So they used their power to destroy them.
The daring insurrectionist is put down. Forgotten. Dismissed. Trampled like an ant.
2000 years ago the religious establishment were threatened by a visionary. A dreamer. A man who talked about a better way of living. About a new kingdom. Where all which was past would be wiped away.
And this unseen, yet known system comes again. And kills him. Rome sees this man as too much of a threat, the possible cause of an uprising. So they trample him. Squash him.
But what happens?
What often happens when these forces of insurrection and hope are killed?
It only gives them more power.
Three days later the body is gone. In the next 40 days 500 people say they have seen this man alive. His followers claim he is resurrected.
And 2000 years later, the story, and his message, are still alive. In fact, so much so that in some places they became assimilated with the establishment itself. And to such a degree they distort it’s message, they protect what they deem to be the ‘right’ message.
Often to the hindrance to it’s true message.
Jesus vision was not to create another establishment. Not create another religion. It was to institute a grander vision for humanity. To show us what it is to be human. (you can tweet that here)
Jesus showed us we all have power to change the world. These ‘principalities and powers’ which existed then, still exist now and will probably always exist. And they will always try to crush people who try to overcome them. But this doesn’t mean they always win.
“Hope dies last” someone once wrote. And I get their point.
But here’s something more radical. I say hope never dies. There is always hope.
All of us do have the power to change the world. The way of love, justice, grace, forgiveness, mercy and truth – the way of Jesus – is the only way to be human. And ultimately nothing – not even death itself – can subdue it.
Let us obey the radical command to put others before ourselves. To give up power rather than seek it out. To be truthful about our brokenness, weakness and insecurity. To love and forgive the people deemed unloveable and unforgiveable.
And to dare to believe there is always hope.
There is always light. Sunday always follows Friday.
Hope never dies.
Are you with me?
Do you ever reflect on unseen forces at work in the world?
What does the life, death & resurrection of Jesus tell us about how we can make a difference in the world?
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