The Supreme Parable

Quote of Lesslie Newbigin.  “The Open Secret,” chapter 4:

The supreme parable, the supreme deed by2009-01-019-newbigin which the reign of God is both revealed and hidden, is the cross. When Israel rejected Jesus’ call to repent and believe the good news of the reign of God, there were two roads which (humanly speaking) he might have taken. One would have been to withdraw with his disciples to the desert and there, like the contemporary communities of which we know from the Qumran documents, pray and wait for God’s action to establish his reign. The other would have been to take the way of the contemporary “freedom fighters” and seek to establish the messianic order by force. Jesus did neither. He led his disciples right into the Holy City at the season dedicated to the memory of national liberation. He chose a mount, however, that suggested a humble royalty, a kingly meekness. He challenged the leaders of the nation at the very center of their power, and he accepted in his self the full onslaught of the powers that refuse the reign of God. Here is the supreme parable: the reign of God hidden and manifest in the dying of a condemned and excommunicated man; the fullness of God’s blessing bestowed in the accursed death of the cross. 

I believe this parable applies to Christians today as well.

1.  Some love the HAWK form of Christianity. Triumphalistic, “Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war.” Spiritual warfare and Power Encounter as primary tools of ministry. The zealots/sicarii of the 1st century are alive and well, in words certainly… and occasionally in deeds. Some appreciate real weapons of war. Others may not use weapons but maintain the attitude of war.

2.  Some choose the DOVE approach of Christianity. For me, this is the radical separatism of some. The focus is on purity and perfection. The “Benedicting Option.” The Essenes of the 1st century are also alive and well with groups today that fear the surrounding culture and pull back to a defensive position.

Both of these are “anti-culture.”One could add two more groups… groups that are perhaps a bit too “pro-culture.”

3. One might suggest that the Herodians of the 1st century are alive and well. Although we don’t know much about them, we may assume that they were cultural accommodationists…letting politicians and political movements greatly influence their own form of faith.

4. Some might argue the Sadducees as being a bit similar in practice… pragmatists first, people of faith second.

Generally, I think most Christians in the countries I have spent time in are accommodationists and pragmatists… although Hawk and Doves have their place (especially in the US).

Jesus should be a challenge to all four groups. Challenging culture, but not anti-cultural. Subversive but non-violent. Pure but culturally interacting.

Later in the same chapter of the Open Secret:

‘In what way has Jesus brought the reign of God near?’ Negatively I have said it has not been done by the introduction into history of a power which is manifest to the natural perception of men and women and which will therefore progressively overcome and eliminate the powers which oppose it. Positively I have said that the coming of Jesus has introduced into history an event in which the reign of God is made known under the form of weakness and foolishness to those to whom God has chosen to make it known, and that it is made known to them so it may be proclaimed to all.

Christian Missions and Ministry would do well to follow Jesus not these other popular models.



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