DoGood

How the Church is Tempted to “Do Good”

The previous post spoke of God’s call to the church to be resident aliens: a holy, distinct people who are set apart and peculiar when compared to the patterns of the world. The holiness of God’s kingdom is cruciform love, which constitutes our distinct witness to the world. Preserving this holiness and resisting the Devil’s temptation to do good according the patterns of the world is ongoing. When we succumb to Satan’s temptation it only reduces the kingdom of God to another version of the kingdoms of the world.

We are not to be ignorant of this temptation and how it lures us in. Therefore, it is helpful to understand how Jesus himself was tempted to do “good.” The Devil tempted Jesus by offering him all the kingdoms of the world without having to go to the cross (Luke 4:6-8). In essence, the Devil was offering him the very thing he came to get, for Jesus came for the people of the world, and people are always subjects of some kingdom or other. To rule the people, all Jesus had to do was submit to the “god of this age” and leave him in place as its ruling authority.

Without having to suffer and die, Jesus could have immediately taken a position as the functional lord of all these kingdoms. Jesus could have quickly overpowered evil in all societies. He could have immediately alleviated much, if not all, suffering and created a kingdom of the world that enacted perfect law, order, and justice. Not only this, he would have thereby fulfilled all Israel’s expectations of what a messiah was supposed to be.

The Devil’s temptation would not have been a genuine temptation for Jesus unless there was a lot of “good” wrapped up in it. The same is true for us today. However, if Jesus would have taken the course of action offered by Satan, Jesus’ rule would have been part of Satan’s system of domination, which currently runs the world.

Jesus refused this “good” approach. He did not come to make the kingdom of the world a new and improved version of itself. He came to transform “the kingdom of the world” into “the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah” and thereby establish the rule of God.

As tempting as it was, Jesus was not going to allow the radical distinctiveness of the kingdom of God to be co-opted by the demonically ruled kingdom of the world—even if the immediate results were “good.” John Howard Yoder once wrote: “The cross is not a detour or a hurdle on the way to the kingdom. It is the kingdom come.” Sacrificial love, therefore, isn’t simply an effective way to make the world a better place, it is the “set apart” kingdom of God on earth! When one obeys God and loves as Christ loves in a kingdom-of-the-world context, it always looks like this.

This is why everything hangs on not allowing it to become co-opted by immediate, obvious, and self-serving kingdom-of-the-world methods, however good the immediate consequences may appear.

—Adapted from The Myth of a Christian Nation, pages 73-75.

Related Reading

Podcast: Is the Cruciform Hermeneutic a Little Too New?

Greg looks at the history of the Cruciform Hermeneutic. http://traffic.libsyn.com/askgregboyd/Episode_0446.mp3

The Bible is NOT the Foundation

Many people imagine that the foundation of their faith is the Bible. This is viewed as the ultimate center around which everything they believe revolves. However, the foundation of the Christian faith is actually centered on a person, not a book. Whereas Islam has always presented itself as a “religion of the book,” the kingdom…

What Kind of God Did Jesus Reveal?

The ReKnew Manifesto exists to encourage believers and skeptics alike to re-think things they thought they already knew – hence our name, Re-Knew. I am currently working through the theology of the Manifesto in a series of posts that began a couple of months ago. Over the last few posts, we have been looking at the…

5 Differences Between The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of the World

Image by matthijs rouw via Flickr The kingdom of God looks and acts like Jesus Christ, like Calvary, like God’s eternal, triune love. It consists of people graciously embracing others and sacrificing themselves in service to others. It consists of people trusting and employing “power under” rather than “power over,” even when they, like Jesus, suffer because…

From Boston, With Love

We posted some of T. C. Moore’s reflections on the Open 2013 conference earlier this week. T. C. lives in Boston and was deeply moved by the violence and terror that came to his city. Now we want to share his most recent blog post Oz and the Cross: Reflections on God’s Love and the…

The Old Testament Is NOT on the Same Plane as the New Testament

Paul taught that unbelievers are blinded by “the god of this age” when they read the OT such that “their minds are made dull” and a “veil covers their hearts…when the old covenant is read” (2 Cor. 4:4; 3:14-15). This is why they are unable to see “the light of the knowledge of God’s glory…