“He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.”
-Jesus, in the Gospel of John 12.25
I have been thinking about this statement for a couple of days now. Sometimes I wonder what reaction Jesus’ statements made, especially in the context of first century Judaism. What they mean for me seems completely different to what a poor Jew living under Roman rule would have faced. For me, laying down my life appears to be simply denying myself from sin (my own and from the outside world), denying comfort, and surrendering my money, vocation, and relationships to his rule. I know that due to changes in history, especially in its sociological, technological, and epistemological forms, I cannot and do not face the same issues that a first century Jew would have faced, nor do I react with the same emotions and thoughts when I hear Jesus’ words. Yet, I feel that on some level my intensity is not at the same level as most of his hearers would have been at. I live in a relatively safe country, city, and neighborhood. Can I surrender my life with the same integrity, intention, and intensity (all the “I” beginnings would make most Baptist preachers proud) as others in the past. Have we as Christians neutered what it means to live a surrendered life? Have I?
I was flipping through the channels and Pat Robertson was praying and encouraging others to pray that a Supreme Court judge would be picked who had godly, conservative values and would restore our present situation. To me, part of this is the problem, yet it is not the only one. We have trumped up this image of the Christian nation, one where Christendom and America reign as one united entity and where all who desire to live under the banner of these values may find their rest. In my opinion, all we have created is lazy Christians who do not have to challenge the Empire, instead they have become the martyrs for tradition and for an America that has seen it’s society go down the toilet. I agree that America as a country is perverse, that it’s values of relativism, lust, and oppression have dominated for way too long. However, we should not hope to be a theocracy either. The church and the nation should never be bedfellows, for if that happens, American values and Christian values become blurred and the church no longer has a prophetic voice, therefore it is neutered as well.
So what does surrender have to do with the separation of church and state? I believe that we as Christians must surrender our identity of being American first and Christian second. I confused the two for way too long and I have repented of it. I believe that we must challenge the value system of America, not just in it’s liberal ideologies but in it’s conservative forms as well. The value system of the Right and the Left are not the same as the one of Christ, both are insufficient when compared to the kingdom. I also surrender the American dream, the one that tells me that a stable house in a quiet neighborhood with a wife and kids is equal to success ( this is the one most dear to me). Surrender for me has become the surrender of my dreams and hopes, the ones that solely make me happy and do not in the end benefit the cause of God or others in need.
I mentioned one aspect of the problem as the confused value system of American Christianity, but I have not mentioned the biggest opponent to Christ, and that is me. For I want the simple life, the one that makes me feel good and appears normal. I want to write, think, and live for myself. I do not want an authority, I do not want someone else’s narrative to rule my life. I want my own. But I must repent of this, I must bow down each day to the way of Christ. I must surrender my agenda for his. I pray that I can…