A revolution of the Spirit

God so loved the world2

Here’s the Christian Viewpoint column from the Highland News of a couple of weeks ago. John Dempster is sharing his personal views.

‘They are interested in the big ideas about revolution and fundamentally changing society.’ The speaker is Ben Gliniecki, national organiser of the Marxist Student Federation. He is commenting on the fact that an increasing number of students (though still a small percentage of the total) are embracing Marxism.

And we should heed their passion. For it is clear that there is something fundamentally wrong with a society where the gap between rich and poor is widening, where many are reduced to using foodbanks. It’s been reported that even some of those attending last week’s World Economic Forum at Davos accept that capitalism is not working, that things will have to change.

It strikes me that Jesus had big ideas about revolution and fundamentally changing society. The other day I was discussing with my daughter Bethany one of Jesus’ most famous statements: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’

Most Christians have heard these words taught as a call to trust God, to ensure that when we die we will be welcomed into God’s presence. But as I talked to Bethany, I suddenly realised that in what he said Jesus was referring just as much (if not more) to the present as he was to the future.

Jesus invites us now to enter into a new quality of life. He calls us now to a spiritual about-turn so radical that it can be described as a revolution of the soul, a re-birth. He calls us now to freedom from destructive ways of thinking and living which cause us to ‘perish’, to lose our souls in trying to make the world ours, to lose ourselves in darkness and despair.

One of the reasons Jesus was seen as a dangerous radical was that he pointed the way to a new way of being, a new source of being, a new freedom – a life lived in openness to God, the great Spirit of Love.

This is the wonderful, liberating message Jesus brought. What the world needs to see is not people who follow a religion, who give assent to principles and beliefs about Jesus which we have written up in our creeds and systematic theologies. What the world needs to see is people who are moment by moment sustained and transformed by the Living God.

As soon as faith in Jesus becomes ‘Christianity’ it becomes just another set of beliefs, just another ideology. Jesus comes to set us free from religion, to set us free (dare I say) from Christianity itself.

Down through history, there have always been those who have lived their lives in contact with God (and they have not always called themselves Christians.)  Such people, even in their weakness and powerlessness (and God more often finds a welcome in the hearts of those who are conscious of their frailty) show an abundance of love and peace, grace and joy.

There are more of these people around than you may think, making a difference in families, communities, churches, shop-floors, foodbank centres, schools, board-rooms, everywhere people go. And we are all invited to join the revolution. Not a revolution of Marxist or Capitalist ideology, nor a revolution of conflict and violence, for we cannot by these means create the kingdom of God on earth. Instead, a revolution which begins within as, as we welcome the transforming love of God seen in Jesus and begin to live as he lived.

This grass-roots revolution of the heart is not ‘the opium of the people’ as Marx put it, a mindless idealism detached from reality.  For as God’s people we are forever asking ‘How can love change this situation? How can I change the ways of doing things which are within my control to make my part of the world a better place?’

Jesus challenges us as Christians: ‘You say you have this abundant, eternal life? Is it seen in your life, in good times and challenging times? Does my love, light, and life well up in you in ways totally consistent with who you are? In giving you life, I give you myself. Journey with me, moment by moment and you will truly come alive.’

Eternal life, this friendship with Jesus, endures beyond the grave, when the kingdom fully comes, when there will neither be capitalism, nor communism nor any other system, but rather a society where there is abundance, and freedom, and respect for the individual, where everyone has what they need, where all is focussed on the great Love.

But the revolution is now. The life of God is within us now. We do not need to wait until beyond death to say ‘Hallelujah, I am free at last.’

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