Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Charles Spurgeon, Jesus and Me (the flag meets the upside down gospel)

This scares me to post. I do so with fear and risk that it will be misunderstood, and cause offense to many people.
But if this offends you, then think about why. If it challenges you, praise God! You have lost nothing by being stretched.
When I saw this design it offended me. In turn, when I got over the the grating, I was left stunned. I don't believe Jesus would design this. However our great symbol of American pride might not mean that much to him either. Probably because Jesus didn't and doesn't see the world like we do. He sees people from the inside of their hearts to the outer shell of their allegiances and skin colour.
You see, we have it all backwards.
Or, rather we have it upside-down.

In the days of Jesus we know that it was laid to the charge of our blessed and divine Master, that he was a stirrer of sedition, whereas he himself had refused to be a king, when his followers would have taken him by force to make him one, for he said, "My kingdom is not of this world;" yet was he crucified under the two false charges of sedition and blasphemy. The same thing occurred with the Apostles. Wherever they went to preach the gospel, the Jews who opposed them sought to stir up the refuse of the city to put an end to their ministry; and then, when a great tumult had been made by the Jews themselves, who had taken unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city in an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring him out to the people, then the Jews laid the tumult and the uproar at the door of the Apostles, saying, "These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also."
- Charles H. Spurgeon from sermon No. 193

So if Jesus were to make his presence known here in 2009 would our world be turned upside down once again?
Look closely at the words on the Flag.
John 18:36
Matthew 6:24
Matthew 5:5
Luke 6:24
Matthew 5:3
Luke 6:25

To put it mildly, we don't seem to get these verses, when we call for war on our enemies, when we live a life for our own gain, accumulating wealth like it is ours, ignoring the poor, and looking with disdain on others because they cannot maintain a lifestyle like our own. These words point directly at me too, I am in full fear of my own situation as I meditate on these issues, and as I meditate I feel a mental gravity shift.
Don't mistake me, I appreciate the foundation of this country I call home, and the safety it provides, and the opportunity to live a prosperous life on earth. Being an American is certainly a privilege! Even these days with our economic downturn, we are the most prosperous and optimistic nation on earth. But how do we wiegh our allegiances to things of this world? John McCain's campaign motto from the relatively recent election was "Country First". I voted for him, but I think Jesus would have abstained given this obvious contradiction to the God-follower. Nations are not eternal, God is, and since we can know him through Jesus Christ:
God first.

Andrew Johnson, President after Abraham Lincoln's assassination said, “Let us look forward to the time when we can take the flag of our country and nail it below the Cross, and there let it wave as it waved in the olden times, and let us gather around it and inscribed for our motto: ‘Liberty and Union, one and inseparable, now and forever,’ and exclaim, ‘Christ first, our country next!’

Thomas Jefferson warns us from history of our shaky stance before God: God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

Politics are an ugly thing to be divided over. So is religion. Jesus was surprisingly clear on how he felt about both of those topics many times. He of course, doesn't address governments, he addresses the individual political and religious expressions of the people listening. He turns both their thinking, and our present day attitudes about life on it's head.

And I am pretty sure that if Jesus spoke to our country and our religious leaders today they would be just as upside-down to modern human beings as when he was incarnated and controversial 2000 years ago.
In fact, I think he did.

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26)

I can see Jesus implying things like "wealth, country, allegiance, heritage, prestige, position, importance in the eyes of others" in all those examples. He is using hate loosely, as I have heard many teachers explain it, mainly to make the statement that God must be so first in our allegiances that in contrast nothing else could even look like devotion in comparison. Family ties are generally seen as the greatest cultural bonds, and Jesus struck at the heart of even what seems like a good thing.
You see, Jesus is not about doing good things, or living a good life. He told a rightious young man who was relatively wealthy that he had one more step to make.

"You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Luke 18:22)

"If any man smite thee on the one cheek, turn unto him the other also." If these precepts were kept, would it not turn the world upside down? "It has been said by them of old time, love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy;" but Jesus Christ said, "Let love be unto all men." He commands us to love our enemies, and to pray for them who despitefully use us. He says, "If thine enemy hunger, feed him, and if he thirst give him drink, for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." This would indeed be turning the world upside down; for what would become of our war ships and our warriors, if at the port-holes where now we put our cannons, we should have sent out to some burning city of our enemies—for instance, to burning Sebastapol,—if we had sent to the houseless inhabitants, who had been driven from their homes, barrels of beef, and bundles of bread and clothes, to supply their wants. That would have been a reversal of all human policy, but yet it would have been just the carrying out of Christ's law, after all. So shall it be in the days that are to come, our enemies shall be loved, and our foemen shall be fed.
(Sermon 193 contd)