The apostle Paul wrote 'we don't wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers and rulers of this dark age'. 2000 years later, the battle continues, now the enemy probably looks a lot different, but the truth is still the same. Paul battled paganism, Jewish religious leaders and the Roman Empire in all its political, economical and cultural might. Today, our enemy is more subtle and craftier than ever but the aims and strategies are the same - to divide and conquer. Divisions exist on every level of our western culture, with people seemingly addicted to expressing their opinions. Our social media stories and feeds, our morning shows and talk shows are relishing in the new social media age, where opinions are expressed in real time. We find divisions emerging not between good and evil, it's not that obvious, but competing opinions and perspectives of what is good. These competing perspectives and opinions clog up out shopping malls with charities selling sponsorship; YouTube and social media are platforms to numerous movements to vegan, feminism, environmental activists, and recently the # me too and #black lives matter movements.
But there is a goodness that is just as corrupt and evil, because it's source is the same, the 'tree of the knowledge of good and evil'. Now let's forget the metaphysical argument of metaphor or literal and look at the truth and reality of this. The power of scriptural truth must not be nullified by our intellectual vanity that can distract us. The temptation to feed upon a knowledge of good and evil is just as relevant as ever. What does it mean? You see, there is a way of seeing, understanding, judging our world, ourselves and others, that does not come from God. This 'consciousness' is what Paul later calls the flesh, or fallen humanity. Escaping this fallen consciousness is where we begin to look at salvation and sanctification, which is a transforming our our very nature. The new nature, or 'Christ's nature' is born and nurtured is us by the Holy Spirit, which is a miracle, or an impossible achievement, a pure work of grace. This work of grace operates upon us and calls us to co-operation ' it is the spirit moving both to will and to do'. The fruit of this is humility. A word very misunderstood now more than ever.
Ask yourself this, if I were humble, would I know it - or if I acted in a Christ like way, would I know it. The answer is No, because in that state of divine grace there is no 'I', it no longer lives, but Christ lives in me. This self forgetting, is the beginning of the journey, it is a pure act of grace and is a gift. It marks the beginning of 'the life in the spirit'. This losing of the self or self forgetting is a great stumbling stone for many Christians, especially those who find themselves in leadership or ministry. It is not something we value, not only in our culture, but in our religious institutions and culture. The letting go of the self is like facing a great chasm, like Indian Jones and the last crusade, when he had to step into seeming nothingness using nothing but blind faith. That faith is a gift from the Spirit, because everything within us wants to shrink back, we want to call that darkness and uncertainty 'evil' because we are not in control - it literally scares the hell out of us.
Now that great leap of faith, the letting go of our false self, is the hardest thing ever. Have a look at at one person who turned back, the rich young ruler, he couldn't' let go of his earthly riches. We are like that unless we see it clearly as the will of God. The problem is that it is not preached or taught as a central theme of the gospel anymore. Is is shrouded in mystery and it's popularity is our Christian culture is non existent. People would rather adhere to biblical principles of prosperity and comfort, status or morality. Sometimes we would rather gouge at specks in their neighbour's eye than tackle the log's in our own eye. Church money is spent on funding political agendas such as the 'no' vote, or repairing church organs and stain glass windows, church renovations and comfortable middle class lifestyles. I am not directly against these things other than that they are not central, they are not meaningful in the light of eternity and the spiritual vision and dance that we are called to participate in. It is the 'good' that is our greatest enemy, it is the 'masquerade of the enemy'. Don't forget the moral outrage that was felt when Jesus' head was anointed with expensive perfume, the apostles claimed that the greater good was to sell it and give the money to the poor. The earthy/fallen vision of the kingdom, has hamstrung the church's effectiveness in ministry and mission so much. Peter in all his earthly/fallen wisdom stood up to Jesus and his mission to to die on the cross, Jesus bluntly said 'get behind me Satan!'.
You see our churches are full of conventional wisdom. We love our formulas, methods, models and plans. We apply every piece of methodology towards ours funds, worship, ecclesiology and mission. The ways of God are often counter intuitive, counter cultural and mysterious, we only have know the history of the church, to see yesterday's outcast, rebel or maverick can bring renewal, fresh expressions and growth.
Mark is a Press Service International young writer from Adelaide.
His previous articles can be read here: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-flippance.html