Pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed on and triumph, as it did among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from evil.
II Thessalonians 3:1b-3
I cannot do justice to the reading from II Maccabees. Please listen to Bishop Robert Baron’s homily on that text.
Paul is spreading the kingdom through an empire. He asks that we should pray for the word of God to speed on and triumph. The Greek word here is “Logos”, ie Jesus. Paul is inviting Christians to subversion. The greeting on the street is “Caesar is Lord”. Caesar was a stabilizing force, a center around which the empire turned. When Caesar was strong, as with Augustus, there was strength in the empire, and peace – albeit with more than a bit of militarism. When Caesar went nutty as in the case of Nero or Caligula the whole thing fell apart. When Caesar is the strong center, he’s very popular. When he’s a nutter: they kill him and get a new one. Jesus is Lord forever. That’s a subversion the Romans can’t handle. It’s an existential threat.
However, if Jesus is only about a political goals: peace, stability, justice, love, happiness… then why not drop all the rest of this crap? All this can come from Caesar and we can all work it out. Let’s just admit that we’re all going to the same place and pull together for the common good! That’s not what Christianity is about. For starters, none of those things come from Caesar. That’s not what God’s way has been about since well before the Holy Maccabee Martyrs (of whom we read today, although their feast day is on 1 August on both the Eastern and Western calendars). God’s always been subverting things: it’s his reign or nothing, really. That’s why Christians do everything as “sojourners” rather than as native citizens in this world.
We should pray for our leaders and we should honor and obey them as long as they command nothing against the Word of God. But political action, per se, seems out of the question because the work of the Kingdom of God is, itself, seditious. Saying “Jesus is Lord” means Caesar is not. Saying “Jesus is Lord” means “I don’t really care who is president, because we are all sinners and I answer to God, alone.” Come the Revolution!
And those for whom Jesus is not Lord are not working to the same ends. We may coincide for a time, but their goal is not our goal. Their god is their belly, their end is destruction.
On Tuesday, we do not vote as citizens of the USA, but as members of Christ Kingdom who happen live here. We have a duty to subvert rather than support, a duty to make manifest God’s kingdom in the laws and procedures of this land in anyway possible. Peaceably. At the same time, putting into practice St Paul’s teaching: that we should pray for the word of God to speed on and triumph. It’s not effective to use the system to get what we want: look at the history of Republican-appointees on the Supreme Court and pro-abortion decisions. We are lying to ourselves if we think we can get anything done playing by their rules. But we can subvert: we can use their rules against themselves.
I had an argument once that ended with the other party saying “yeah, but all truth is relative in different shades of grey.” That begs all sorts of questions, but it’s possible to subvert that rule set. “That’s just your truth, Brian.” I said, “My truth only comes in black and white.” He was totally stunned into silence. When people get exotic about God not being “Really” a Father and being beyond gender, I ask “Does God not have the freedom to pick his own pronouns?” Certainly, they may deny the reality of revelation in either case, but then, at least, you know you’re talking to materialists and you can get on with the subversive work of the Gospel. Word games are theology: we worship the Logos of God.
I pray the Word of God will speed on and triumph. At least, I pray, he will hold the trump card in this election.