Some Christians have a very us-and-them mentality. They see the Kingdom of God as being in conflict with the world, seeking to defeat its evil ways. They see God as a master of spiritual warfare, taking on His adversaries with courage and might like a warrior in combat. They see our role, as the Church, as being the voice of “truth” – showing everyone how wrong they are and how right we are no matter how offensive we must be in the process. Eventually all of this leads us to a view of God as the God of victory – who proves His strength through the defeat of His enemies.
The Romans in the first century worshiped a goddess like the one described above. Nike was the winged goddess of victory. She was the personification of conquest as her image was plastered all over the Roman Empire – on their flags and on their walls. It was by her that the Romans believed their empire was so powerful. Victory in battle was proof that Rome reigned supreme as the elite and ideal society. The book of Revelation seems to allude to this worship of victory but definitely not as an ideal. In Revelation we have another winged image proclaiming not a gospel of the victory of Rome but of the victory of God (see Rev. 14). We are given a contrast between two kingdoms in Revelation. We see the Kingdom of the beast – the Roman Empire with their worship of victory and conquest – and we also see the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom is described in much different terms and is a common theme throughout the rest of Scripture. I think sometimes our understanding of God is too close to Nike and our understanding of the Kingdom of God is too close to the Kingdom of the Beast.
The Kingdom of God does things differently than the world. It isn’t driven by conquest and its victory is not won in battle. Rather, God’s victory – our victory – is won through shame on a cross. We have to be content in this paradox; it is through shame, submission, and even death that we find our vindication. Jesus showed us that it’s not about being us-and-them, in fact Jesus joined “them.” God joined the outcast and the marginalized to show us that those who seem to be our enemies, those we are tempted to cast out because they are obviously wrong and we are obviously right, are actually accepted by God and so we must accept them as well. Our task is to eat with them, to join with them.
If you take me to be saying we should not take a stance you have misunderstood me. We must stand up. We must rise as voice in the world. And yes we are indeed here to change it. But ours is not a voice of condemnation ours is a voice of hope. Ours is not a voice of opposition but a voice of peace and of a better kingdom, a better way to live. Our voice is victorious in submission. We are heard not by yelling but by serving, not by reprimanding but by humility. We are loud in our silence. We are victorious in our shame.