Resistance: Jesus’ Call to the Church
Conversion, Transformation, and Salvation as Resistance
Good morning—thank you for the prayers. As you probably know, the surgery went well and my little tumor unwillingly left my body Monday morning. I don’t think it wanted to leave to easily, but it is gone and my doctors prevailed.
These last two Sundays we are going to complete the Resistance series by discussing Conversion, Transformation, and Salvation as a form of resistance. As I have been discussing, Jesus called the early Christians to resist the Roman Empire’s ideology of power, peace, and prosperity. Only God can provide this in the lives of people and Jesus became the new Emperor for an Empire of peace, purity, power, and love. Shalom is more than peace—it is justice, hope, safety, and peace. We live in a world where those issues are constantly at stake. While we as Americans consider voting a right to express our desires for a leader, many countries do not have that option. They have to accept who is in power and through hope and prayer, seek peace through God working in the leadership.
However, even in America power can be corrupted. We see it every day whether it is the CEO who chases money and prestige over worker’s rights, to the doctor who takes advantage of vulnerable patients. We see it in the teacher who abuses students, as well as the coach whose desire for victory leads his staff to ignore breaking rules, recruitment violations, and hurting the players. We see it in the parent who sacrifices their children and family to live beyond their means as well as the husband or wife who works many hours thinking that they will better their family—only to leave them in chaos. We see it in the political leader who trades justice for power and integrity for a better position.
Yet Jesus calls us to a better life. When we share our faith or ask people if they have a relationship with Jesus, what are we offering?
- Why Do People Become Christian?
- What Happens When I Become a Follower of Jesus?
- What Am I Asking from God?
- What Does God Ask from Me/You?
Are we sharing our faith for people to only “get saved,” “have their sins forgiven,” or “go to heaven”? Is this our message?
And after people choose Jesus, as we have, what next? What happens when time passes, and we become bored with the “walking the same walk,” or “hoping the same hope”?
Maybe this is part of our struggle. Are we proclaiming a personal Jesus or the chance to join a movement, embrace a vision, and change the world? As author, college professor, and speaker Tony Campolo stated:
When I call young people to become Christians, I do not call upon them to get spiritual so they can go to heaven when they die. Rather, I call them to become participants in a revolution, in a movement that is designed to transform this world into the world it ought to be. In this process, I want them to separate themselves from a generation of people who are continually saying, “I am trying… Tony Compolo.
The Christian calling is to do something significant in the world, to be agents of transformation. Down through the years I have been accused of being a social activist. My answer is, “Can you be anything else?” If there is a movement to eliminate racism, I ask a very simple question: “Does God want to eliminate racism?” Does God want to eliminate war? Does God want to redeem and reconstruct his environment? Does God want to elevate the state of women? Does God want people who are oppressed, as are homosexuals, to discover that they are loved and affirmed? Yes to all of the above. So, to me, the Christian vocation is to participate with God in all of these activities for the transformation of society. I am not saved to go to Heaven. I am saved, filled with the Spirit, so that God may have instruments through whom he can effect things in history. Tony Compolo
Notice what Tony wrote—we must call people to something big—something radical, something unsafe. Yet often we have become a people who chose to be safe, to be status quo, to be like everyone else. How different this is from the Apostle Paul’s view of Christianity.
15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
15 Yo entonces dije: ¿Quién eres, Señor? Y el Señor dijo: Yo soy Jesús, a quien tú persigues. Pero levántate, y ponte sobre tus pies; porque para esto he aparecido a ti, para ponerte por ministro y testigo de las cosas que has visto, y de aquellas en que me apareceré a ti, librándote de tu pueblo, y de los gentiles, a quienes ahora te envío, para que abras sus ojos, para que se conviertan de las tinieblas a la luz, y de la potestad de Satanás a Dios; para que reciban, por la fe que es en mí, perdón de pecados y herencia entre los santificados.
Paul’s conversion story is told 3 times in Acts/Hechos. Each time it expands and embraces a vision. The man who had a prophet (Agabus—Acts 21:10-15) tie his hands and prophesy his oppression during a Bible study was clear. Paul must suffer for Jesus. Yet do you remember Paul’s response? “I am not only willing to be bound but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus!” For Paul Jesus was no personal savior—he was king, Lord, Master, and his boss. He called the shots—and Paul remembered that Jesus said he would suffer.
How many people would we baptize if we told them that what they were doing would send them down a road of suffering, conflict, and resistance? And how many would say “Amen” and go under the water? However, this is the message Jesus proclaimed to his Apostles after the resurrection.
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
45 Entonces les abrió el entendimiento, para que comprendiesen las Escrituras; y les dijo: Así está escrito, y así fue necesario que el Cristo padeciese,y resucitase de los muertos al tercer día; y que se predicase en su nombre el arrepentimiento y el perdón de pecados en todas las naciones, comenzando desde Jerusalén. Y vosotros sois testigos de estas cosas. He aquí, yo enviaré la promesa de mi Padre sobre vosotros; pero quedaos vosotros en la ciudad de Jerusalén, hasta que seáis investidos de poder desde lo alto.
He told his disciples—“You are my witnesses.” He didn’t say, “I’m here to make your life easier.” He didn’t say, “I’m here to make you rich.” He didn’t say, “I’m here to fulfill all your dreams.” He didn’t say, “I will give you what you want.”
No—he said, “You are to tell people about me.” That’s what a witness is and does.
I have been trained to be an expert witness for our county in the courtroom for domestic abuse. I have been taught to “be a witness.”
Does that mean that I cave in to the worldly view of this great sin in our world?
- The world tells women to go back to their abusive husbands
- The world tells women that they do not have a voice
- The world gives offenders multiple chances—that is why there are multiple victims of many of these men
- The world turns its head to this great sin
As a minister, Lori and I have been witnesses to the truth that God opposes the arrogant and offers grace to the humiliated—not the other way around. God hears the cries of victims. When our county’s prosecuting attorney said, “I would love to have you in the courtroom with me on cases,” it is a reminder that many of our legal advocates, law enforcement, and politicians who are Christians are tired of seeing faith communities cover up or ignore victims. To go into court as a witness means:
- We tell the truth and present the facts, the research, and evidence
- We persuade common people to accept and act on the facts
- We ourselves become examples of what and who we witness
Jesus has called all people not simply to salvation, but to witness. You and I, all of us, are called to a vision, a way of life, and a kingdom. It is a place where God’s justice reigns and where truth flourishes. It is a place unlike our world. When the church acts like the world it becomes corrupt and is led by corrupt people. When the church acts like Jesus it becomes holy.
You and I are called to be part of this movement. We are called to witness.
It is a calling that many people will resist.
As Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch wrote in their book Re-Jesus:
“Jesus is still calling us to come and join him in a far more reckless and exciting adventure than that of mere church attendance. When allowed to be as he appears in the pages of Scripture, Jesus will not lead us to hatred, violence, greed, excess, earthly power, or material wealth. Instead, he will call us to a genuinely biblical and existential faith that believes in him, not simply believing in belief…It requires an ongoing encounter with Jesus.”
During the witness training some of my colleagues were worried. What if I get into court and get attacked by a defense attorney? What if I am nervous about speaking in public? What if someone threatens me?
The trainers told us that this is a job “our world needs—desperately.” We need people to tell the truth and present the facts in the face of “cross-examination,” “fear,” or “intimidation.” They indicated that it is not for those who are easily intimidated. But they told us, “Just tell the story, tell your story, and inform people. We trust the court system and we will take it from there.”
We are called to witness:
- Call people to join us—salvation is a way to join the team and live the vision
- Be bold—tell your story, tell the story, tell about Jesus.
- Live the story—be a witness both in word and lifestyle
- Don’t let the world intimidate you—Jesus is more powerful than all
As Jesus told us, “If anyone would follow me they must deny themselves and take up their cross daily, and follow me…” Luke 9:23