A Calling to Betrayal

Following Jesus is a call to betrayal. There can be no fudging this. As soon as we affirm that ‘Jesus is Lord!’ we have committed an act of betrayal. We are announcing that all other allegiances and narratives must now be forfeit to a greater and deeper vocation. 

Ambition and identity are to be held lightly and be subject to Christ. All desires and aspirations are to be shaped by love. Selfish ambition has no place in the life of a Jesus follower. There can be no desire to make a name for ourselves (the sin of Babel) or to become ‘a big name’ on the conference circuit. We are, instead, to consider other’s needs as above our own, willingly working for the betterment of our sisters and brothers. Our identity is to be found in and through Christ and not through success or fame or riches. Our self-awareness is firstly found in being a recipient of God’s gratuitous grace and not in our being male or female, Gentile or Jew, slave or free. Such identities must, at most, be tertiary, for of secondary importance is being part of a new community of grace, the ‘called out’ ones, called together to betray previous narratives in favour of a better story. 

We see this played out again and again in Acts of the Apostles. Pentecost comes with a BANG, turning the usual, the ‘normal,’ upside down. It is the first taste of Mary’s Magnificat in the life of the Church: the humble become filled; the powerless become those who shape the future; the fearful become brave and the weak strong; the rich and powerful start to lose their place in the hierarchy because ‘there is another king, one Jesus.’

We see this unfold as Peter and John heal the cripple and have their first run in with the spiritual leaders. The disciples will not keep silent, threats or no; even imprisonment is no obstacle to them. And neither is the beginnings of persecution and martyrdom. Indeed, as Tertullian noted in Apologeticus, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. We see this again as Saul finds faith, as Peter encounters Cornelius, as Paul and Barnabus set off on their journeys; as the new movement spreads into Europe where it found a home for the next two thousand years; as the apostles wrote their letters and the Gospels, seeking to help the fledgling churches apply the stories of Jesus to their growing lives. 

And so a new narrative emerged, one in which ‘this Jesus’ takes the leading role, with the disciples playing necessary but secondary parts in a new story. These are not ‘walk on’ parts, but meaningful and insightful roles. They are the out-working of the in-breaking Kingdom of God, a process that continues even to this day. 

The concern is, however, that Europe, home to the faith for 2000, has failed to continue living a life of betrayal. Instead the church, instead of speaking the truth to power, became the power itself. The assertion moved from ‘Jesus is Lord!’ to ‘the church is the embodiment of the Kingdom and therefore you must submit to the Church.’ Ecclesiastical power was substituted for humility and the narrative of Jesus was lost.

We need to retell the Jesus story. We need to learn again the art of betraying the powers and principalities by embodying that first Christian creed, Jesus is Lord!

The views expressed in this blog post are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the GC network.

Photo by Edward Cisneros on Unsplash

The B-word

As I write the U.K. is in a state of confusion and flux. There have been and are arguments that float terms such as ‘sovereignty’ and ‘taking back control.’ People on all sides have strong views which have sometimes led to violence and even bloodshed on English streets. Emotions flow freely, in a torrent that divides nations, families and tribes.

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The ‘Red Lines’ of the Kingdom

In Acts we find a story of The Jewish diaspora, in which Jews, allowed to legally hold to their faith, were nonetheless subject to the vagaries of Empire. The Jews were scattered through the Mediterranean world, particularly the eastern end, and like all diaspora peoples, they gathered together for mutual support and protection. They formed insular communities so that their religious and cultural lives could be built up. Whilst there was trade (and other) engagements with the wider, imperial community, this was limited. Integration was not part of their agenda.

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It’s all about the Spirit – Part 3

The Spirit blows across the pages of Acts, blazing in his enthusiasm for Jesus. His first appearance is in 1:2 in which we discover that it was the Spirit that inspired Jesus. In chapter 2 the Spirit ignites a fire that rages through the rest of the book. He brings courage and boldness to timid disciples, clarity to Peter, discipline to a wayward couple – and so on throughout the book. Lives are changed (usually for the better although Ananias and Sapphira may have a different take). People are healed. Evil spirits are thrown out. And the infant church grows.

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It’s all about Jesus – Part 2

The author of Acts introduces the narrative by pointing back to his first volume: ‘In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach’ (Acts 1:1). Acts, in contrast, tells us some of what Jesus continued to do and teach through His disciples. This present participle is vital, because the tacit assumption is that the ministry of the disciples, in the power of the Spirit, is a continuation of the ministry of Jesus. And His ministry continues today through us, as we are work in collaboration with the Spirit.

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Acts of the Apostles – Part 1

I am beginning a series of blog posts on Acts of the Apostles. They will be a series of reflections as I seek to draw some lessons from the biblical text and apply them to the contemporary ‘mission scene.’ You may agree with the points I make – but equally you may want to question some of the things I write. This is healthy and I welcome your comments and feedback.

Other better scholars will (no doubt) offer different perspectives, but I am approaching the text primarily as a missiological narrative rather than as doctrinal or historical accounts. Acts is an account of the spread and growth of the early church, from ‘Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). There are four main actors throughout the text: Jesus (1:1) and the Holy Spirit (1:8), the ‘Word of God’ and the Christian community. Off stage – in the wings directing everything – is the Father. The director and actors work in collaboration throughout the text as the story unfolds.

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Holistic evangelism: A bleeding woman and a dead child

I finished my last post by saying, please God, may my anger continue to burn until the church practices holistic evangelism as God has called it to do. This raises the question of what is holistic evangelism? I answered the question by saying, “when the kingdom is enacted on the earth, amidst all the messiness of human existence with its sin, sickness and spite.” But what does this actually look like?

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Holistic evangelism: What on earth is the church for?

I am angry. I have been since 6th July 1980. At times the anger has burned brightly, but on other occasions it is just sadness. Nearly 34 years later and there is still anger and sadness.

I am angry with the church. Not with any particular local congregation, but with the chronic failure of The Church – the community of people claiming to be Christians in this country. The anger is specific: it took The Church 17 years to tell me about Jesus. It was in July 1980 that I became a follower of Jesus, this controversial, delightful, enigmatic and fascinating manual labourer from Palestine.  It was then that I found I actually mattered to God, that I was loved by Him and that my life had purpose and meaning. But it took 17 years for The Church to bother telling me about this Jesus.

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