Occupying what has been cleared was an OT mandate, indeed one of the narratives says that the Lord would not drive all the enemies out all in one go, the Israelites needing to develop and be able to replace them. In the NT we have the narrative of clearing a house but not filling it as being highly dangerous – the latter state being worse than the former. That principle being applied to an individual, a generation, and with the intriguing use of the word ‘house’, applicable right across the board as well as to the specific house of the Jerusalem Temple.
Occupying what has been cleared. I am not sure what I thought some 20 years ago, indeed my thinking was probably far from clear. I was looking more for some kind of (as I thought) classical revival and then an impact on society where there was both a cleaning up of it and more than likely those in power would be those who knew Christ or those in power would be sympathetic. I don’t think I was looking for the influential top positions to be filled by Christians but if that model was presented to me 20 years ago I might have bought into it.
Back some 30 years ago I was introduced to the Anabaptist stream from the Reformation era and maybe that helped me steer away from the simple top-down approach. There are biblically and currently great examples of those who have a position of influence and use that for the good of society. There are also examples where the results are mixed. Is the work of Joseph and the enslavement of a whole people really an example to be followed? And as the fear of Sharia law is propagated is a Christian (OT?) alternative better?
Power. To effect change we must have power, and have more power than the other person. So the narrative unfolds. Yet Jesus submitted to the powers and in that submission he stripped them of their power. The resurrection is the vindication of his path, and post resurrection he did not swap the cross for the other type of cross that could now slay his enemies. Even in the parousia he is the rider on the white horse but that garment is already blood-stained, his own blood. Yes every knee will bow, but enforced on one and all as dictators do? Or as the universal proclamation of truth when sight will be clear? Jesus path is not the same power path as Caesar’s with the only difference being one is good and the other is bad. Of course politically there are very real challenges but the belief that the good guys (us) can and must have more military power than the bad guys (them) is not the God way, even if it is argued that it is the necessary way. That action is at best a fallen way, and when what is fallen is portrayed as right eventually what is clearly wrong will be declared right. Rhetoric of power is not fitting for anyone in a position of influence who claims faith in Jesus.
Thankfully for most of us we do not have to wrestle with the influence of power in some big sense. We are called to pray for those who do. Now coming up to date, where does Scotty now stand on this big issue of occupation? First, I still believe we can clear the ground by shifting what is in the heavens above, we can change the atmosphere. I am not too quick to jump in and, at a volume, address a host of powers, as I see their authority rooted in what has gone on in history. Hence the need for identificational repentance. However, with that, and sometimes with the passage of time (2015 we visit Franco’s grave, 40 years after his death – a cycle was ending) there is a rightness about making a proclamation that a new day has arrived. Assuming we can get to that stage, then I am very happy to use the analogy that there has been a clearing. From that the necessary step is for a filling or an occupation of what has been cleared. I consider that it is the church’s responsibility to ensure that there is a filling of the space with things new and old. It is not our responsibility to fill it, but to ensure it is filled.
I watched Shawshank Redemption with Gayle a number of years ago. So revealing about the effects of insitutionalism. As it closed I spoke out loud, ‘That’s the kind of film Christians should be making.’ Unpremeditated but immediately these words raced through my mind as strong as any audible voice could have been:
No you are wrong Martin. This is the kind of film Christians are responsible to ensure is made.
If we have to make them, we need a Christian film company, producers, actors etc. I am not for one minute suggesting there is something wrong with that, but there is also something beyond that. What would happen if we saw ourselves as responsible for what came out of Hollywood? Not in the sense of legislating, but in the sense that Hollywood by choice began to put out films that were promoting messages that were predominantly wholesome? (And of course there are films of that nature that are deeply prophetic.) I believe this is possible, and that is not unconnected to those of us who seem to occupy space a million miles away from that world.
Occupying space. How we live within the economic sphere, how we set ourselves to relate to the other so as to confront racism, sexism and nationalism is important. It might not make us popular, it might close the door to power, but that is where (I believe) real influence takes place. And believing in dimensions beyond what we touch and see opens up exciting possibilities. Dreams take place for people when the body of Christ lives out the Gospel in humility. They dream and receive revelation and changes of heart and mind. In dreams we can go to people and communicate with them, speak wisdom to them. They can appear to us and we can have a very real meeting with them whether in dreams or while we are awake.
It is great to meet someone and be able to give them a ‘word from heaven’. God can bring before us people like that that we would never meet without God’s hand involved. It is great to be able to say ‘I gave so-and-so well-known person a word.’ However, if it seems to have no effect I am absolutely convinced that it is better never to meet them but somehow through how we lived – and sometimes with a crazy supernatural intervention – to be the means through which that they were changed and impacted.
If it appears I am writing in a mystical sort of way, this is exactly what I believe. Whatever we mean by ‘spirit’ is real. Life is more than physical speech, the shaking of a physical hand. I am still charismatically wired!! When I used to travel in Brazil I came into a building with Anderson Lima and said to him – we were here last year. He said – no we have not been to this city. I said – we have, and told him what was in the building, what rooms were there etc. However, we had never been there before – seems I had been there.
Called to ensure the building is occupied and filled. Here are a couple of ways in which I think that becomes limited:
- When we think only short-term. The early church shifted at a rate of increase of about 40% per decade. That is not high growth. They did not generally have access to power, but there was a change that was taking place. We have to think long-term.
- And the lack of impact is probably also down to the myth of ‘the only power that counts is the power you can wield.’ There has to be strong evidence that the pathway we are on demonstrates that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, that our path is to create an environment where the greatest level of servanthood possible is facilitated. So ironically in believing the lie about power we end up without true power!
My beliefs today and 20 years ago are quite a way apart on this issue. I look now for a revolution of the multiplicity of small things. The hidden, and if necessary despised revolution. I look for the space to be occupied by those who hold space not for themselves but for others, regardless of their faith or other criteria.
The landscape is so open. Change is both possible, or could be quickly shut down, and the body of Christ surely has the biggest say in that.