A Colony of Heaven

“In the world the Christians are a colony of the true home,” said Bonhoeffer. Perhaps Christians should work harder toward establishing colonies of the kingdom that point to our true home. All too often the church holds up a mirror reflecting back the society around it, rather than a window revealing a different way.

If the world despises a notorious sinner, the church will love her. If the world cuts off aid to the poor and the suffering, the church will offer food and healing. If the world oppresses, the church will raise up the oppressed. If the world shames a social outcast, the church will proclaim God’s reconciling love. If the world seeks profit and self-fulfillment, the church seeks sacrifice and service. If the world demands retribution, the church dispenses grace. If the world splinters into factions, the church joins together in unity. If the world destroys its enemies, the church loves them.

That, at least, is the vision of the church in the New Testament: a colony of heaven in a hostile world.

A Kind of Secret Force

Philip Yancey, in What’s so Amazing about Grace?

Jesus’ images portray the kingdom as a kind of secret force. Sheep among wolves, treasure hidden in a field, the tiniest seed in the garden, wheat growing among weeds, a pinch of yeast worked into bread dough, a sprinkling of sale on meat–all these hint at a movement that works within society, changing it from the inside out. You do not need a shovelful of salt to preserve a slab of ham; a dusting will suffice.

Jesus did not leave an organized host of followers, for he knew that a handful of salt would gradually work its way through the mightiest empire in the world. Against all odds, the great institutions of Rome–the law code, libraries, the Senate, Roman legions, roads, aqueducts, public monuments–gradually crumbled, but the little band to whom Jesus gave these images prevailed and continues on today.

Much to Learn from the Spirit of Jesus

Philip Yancey, in What’s So Amazing about Grace?

Today, each time an election rolls around Christians debate whether this or that candidate is “God’s man” for the White House. Projecting myself back into Jesus’ time, I had difficulty imagining him pondering whether Tiberius, Octavius, or Julius Caesar was “God’s man” for the empire.

… the man I follow, a Palestinian Jew from the first century, had also been involved in a culture war. He went up against a rigid religious establishment and a pagan empire. The two powers, often at odds, conspired together to eliminate him. His response? Not to fight, but to give his life for these his enemies, and to point to that gift as proof of his love. Among the last words he spoke before death were these: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

[We] have much to learn from the spirit of Jesus.

Seeking a Renewal of Spirituality

Philip Yancey, in What’s So Amazing about Grace?

A renewal of spirituality in the United States will not descend from the top down; if it occurs at all, it will start at the grass roots and grow from the bottom up.

I must admit that my return to the United States gave me little reason to hope that Russia and the world might learn grace from Christians here. Randall Terry was pronouncing on National Public Radio that the Midwest floods, which caused thousands of farmer to lose their lands, houses, and livestock, had come as God’s judgment against America’s failure to support his anti-abortion crusade. The next year, 1992, proved to be one of the most fractious election years, as the religious right flexed its muscle for the first time on a national scale. Christians seemed more interested in power than in grace.