Repent and Believe in Me

I think many evangelicals, even those of us who are rethinking what Jesus’ message and life really mean in our world, still hear his invitation as a “spiritual” invitation to spiritual formation…. Jesus’ way of global revolution on behalf of Yahweh, his path of global justice and peace is one of being the kind of person who can absorb the world’s evil into oneself and release love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, compassion, and justice.

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These thoughts have been rattling around my head:

Jesus’ call to repent and believe in him is NOT a religious invitation. At one level, many evangelical Christians hear his invitation as a ticket out of this world and into heaven. But I think that many of us who are rethinking what Jesus’ message and life really mean in our world, still hear his invitation as primarily a “spiritual” invitation to spiritual formation. There IS a spiritual part to his invitation and I’ll touch on it in a moment. But I think if we jump straight there, we risk short-circuiting Jesus’ larger agenda.

I’m coming to believe that Jesus’ invitation is primarily a political one in nature. He’s saying that the powerful and dynamic kingdom or empire of God is available right now, in our broken, distorted and unjust world. That means justice for the oppressed, peace for the war-torn, joy for the mournful, revitalization for the bankrupt and broken and much more are available right now for this world. It means a complete overturning of the world’s empires and systems that have fostered economic, cultural and military imperialism.

So what are we repenting of? I think Jesus is challenging us to rethink how to be human, and as humans, how we would go about making a better world. I think he’s not just challenging all that’s bad in us, but even all that’s good in us as well. That’s because even our best intentions can be distorted. He’s saying, “Do you think you can really dethrone a dictator by using greater military means? You better think again!” And “Do you think you can make a better world by manufacturing, buying and selling more or by developing greater technological advancements? You better think again!”

Jesus’ way of global revolution on behalf of Yahweh — his strategy for global justice and peace — is pioneering a society whose citizens are becoming the kind of people who, like him, can absorb the world’s evil into themselves and release love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, compassion, and justice back into the mix. This is the daily implementation of what he uniquely inaugurated in his crucifixion and resurrection. Therefore, “believing in him” means to place our confidence in him and his strategy. It means being completely sold with his agenda, believing that it will really work in all situations and all cultures.

Because the political and spiritual realms are inseparable, Jesus’ political invitation has an equal spiritual aspect as well. Our confidence in him and his plan for global revolution compels us to join him and become like him so we can implement his plan. Though his strategy for global transformation is a political one, it requires spiritual formation into people and communities who bring wisdom, healing and renewal in all levels of life in his behalf. We’re being saved for the sake of the world.

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