Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What Do You Confess?

What do you confess?  Are you a patriot?  Perhaps you proudly state that you're an American, and insist that all your fellow Americans remember, if nothing else, that they are Americans.  So you are actually making two confessions.  The first is a simple statement of national origin, and the second is a statement of national pride.

In order to pin you down more, I will restate my question this way.  What or whom do you confess as the final arbiter of your raison d'etre, the thing by which you judge everything else?

If you think about it, you'll discover the picture quickly grows murky for anyone seriously asking the question.  For example, being an American deepens to Americanism being the only sane national alternative, which further intensifies into the American national imperative.  "I confess I am a Democrat!" you might finally assert.  "I'm a Republican!" the person next to you might then shout.  Both of you hail American nationalism with equal fervor.  So what differentiates you from him/her?  What's the beef?

It might surprise you, but the difference is not what you each perceive as the correct national imperative.  No, I propose that you and your neighbor are still not confessing what you truly confess.  Now, there are a zillion factors to be considered, but I will cut to the critical chase as I see it.

You, the Democrat, might explain, "I know where you're going with this.  Let me tell you, I am a Christian.  I confess Jesus Christ!  And Jesus taught us to care for the poor and repudiate the rich."

"And how do you live by this confession?" I ask.

"I support leaders and government systems that mandate fair distribution of wealth, and who promote peace through tolerance.  After all, this is what our founding fathers advocated.  It is the glory of Americanism, and why all other nations pale."

Your Republican neighbor quickly chimes in before I can say anything.  "I confess Jesus Christ who demands moral purity and everyone working for their bread, which means they must take care of themselves.  This is what it means to be American.  This is the national ethos that shines above the rest because it demands free opportunity under the strict rule of Judeo-Christian ethics.  Our founding fathers would be appalled by the moral laxity and entitlements being leveled on the American public, today."

"How do you live by your confession?" I ask.

"I live it by supporting leaders and government systems who limit their own authority, advocate Christian principles and traditions in the public sector, and insist that everyone carry his own weight."

I step back to watch the two of you--both red-faced--glaring at each other.

The rest of you watching this drama playing out in my mind's eye will perhaps accuse me of creating caricatures.  I disagree.  The two patriots clearly read from the same music in their heads; the rest, as Wolfie in Amadeus said non plus, is just quibbling and bibbling, bibbling and quibbling.  The point is neither person has yet to honestly admit his/her true confession; indeed, they might not even know what it is.

I submit that despite the fact each sees the other as hopeless and--no overstatement, here--evil, they both actually confess the same thing.  Both really only want a society where they can be left to themselves and feel good about it.  Their truest confession is self-satisfaction--pure and simple.

If any caricature has been painted, it is their caricature of Jesus.

May I remind us that simply asserting Jesus is the son of God doesn't save us or our particular worldview.  Frequently in the Gospels we find the demons whom Jesus cast out of people confessing Jesus as the son of God.  But their true confession didn't change them; they only cowered.

If we are to confess Jesus in a way that effects a change in us and in the world around us, then we must confess Him as King.  If Jesus is our King, we will seek to obey Him according to His standards and not our own or those of the corrupt world.  We will obey Him by promoting His kingdom through individual initiative (i.e., not foisting the responsibility on someone else) in our sphere of influence--regardless of who might be in office, or what might be in vogue.  We promote his kingdom by caring for the poor, the infirmed, and the marginalized (isn't this what our Democrat friend claims he/she wants?) by freely distributing the wealth God has placed in our possession, fully confident of God's faithfulness.  And at the same time, bringing justice (isn't this what our Republican friend claims he/she wants?) by acting mercifully towards everyone including our enemies--yes, especially our enemies.  And at the same time willingly dying each and every moment both to and for this corrupt world as Jesus died for all of us.

No doubt this is a hard teaching.  Our king makes the most uncomfortable demands on us.  God's kingdom completely contradicts this dark world and its ways.  So, naturally there will be conflicts, and there won't be peace--at least not yet.  But if we truly confess Jesus as our King and Lord, the unrest and conflict we encounter will be a response and not our actions.  In other words, we won't be seeking sanctuary from the opposition, nor will we attempt to muzzle the opposition using the world's methods and tactics.  Indeed, if we truly trust our King Jesus, we won't be feel threatened, at all.  We will understand that the justice will only come through the power of love acting in holiness.

Jesus doesn't want us, as our two friends above are doing, to hide behind other men or women, or ideologies.  He calls us to boldly come out of hiding and invest ourselves as representatives of His kingdom to a dark, fearful, and angry world.

We would all do well to assess what we honestly confess.