Sacred Anarchy (part 2)

The logic of living lives empowered by God’s sacrificial love is nonsense and weakness to powerful elites. They know that real power comes from wealth, military might, and influence in the major national capitals in our world such as Washington DC. The Apostle Paul counters with the zinger, “But the weakness of God is more powerful than human strength (I Cor. 1:25).

Ah, I want to know, “What is such foolishness and weakness?” It looks like love, grace, mercy, truth, and peace with justice. It looks like serving others with joy. Paul adds that we don’t somehow enter this alternative world through our own effort—we receive it as a gift, and then God empowers us to live into it. John Caputo explains that the world of God’s grace is the very opposite of the logic of our world:

In the logic of the world, nothing is for free and nobody gets off scot-free. By the same token, in the logic of the world, everything is for sale, everything has a price, and nothing is sacred. The world will stop at nothing to get even, to settle or even a score; the world is pomp and power and ruthless reckoning.[1]

With reference to such a world, the realm of God’s weakness involves a logic of impossibility—but not as something that cannot be. No! We’re talking about amazing grace, not amazing magic. Instead, it’s a salvific event that flies in the face of the dominant logic of our world.[2] In this respect, according to John Caputo, it involves some degree of sacred anarchy and raising holy hell.[3]

When we think of raising holy hell, we may consider joining a public march or protest. A “March for Lives,” mourning the senseless loss of lives and advocating sensible gun laws, is planned here in DC on March 24. Some of us will certainly want to participate. That’s good! Still, we will not want to put too much focus on appealing to governments and powerful elites as though they are the main actors in our world. A holy anarchy gently challenges that assumption.

The Bible contrasts “this world” with “God’s new world coming.” This new, grace-filled world is integral to who we are as individuals and as a faith community. It creates alternative pathways for life and action. Paul speaks of it as “being made alive together with Christ.”  How do I pass through that eye of a needle and be made alive? Certainly, it means giving my life to Jesus and being “saved by grace.”

Yet, we should be warned, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminded us, such grace is not cheap—it involves costly discipleship—but we don’t go around forever counting the cost. Yes, we deeply feel the world’s pain and take action as we can. We also marvel in God’s good creation, we serve others with joy, we sometimes raise holy hell, and we continually recognize hopeful seeds of new life sprouting to life in our midst. Those signs of life often come unannounced in unexpected places.

During my recent sabbatical, I visited I visited a dear spiritual mentor who is nearing the end of his life. He was so glad to see me; wanting to know all about what I’m doing, about the church I’m serving, and about my family, He still has a sharp, inquisitive mind even though his body no longer fully cooperates.  Spending time with him was such a gift.

Life becomes more precious and friendships more alive as we near death. I first learned to know him when I was a young man serving in Asia. He wanted me to tell him all about my recent trip to India and asked about mutual friends. We talked about the special gift that small churches bring to our world. He had been a mentor to me during some difficult personal faith struggles and taught me how to look for and recognize signs of God’s reign in unexpected places.

Such spiritual friendship exemplifies living in God’s world of grace. God is not some hierarchical monarch seated on his heavenly throne, undergirding earthly rulers, and dictating everything that happens here on earth. No, No, No!  God is love. God is grace. God is weak by worldly standards. God does not coerce. God instead uses the weak powers of friendship, persuasion, and invitation. Despite so much evidence to the contrary, we have this audacious and, yes, subversive hope that love wins.

[1] John C. Caputo, The Weakness of God (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2006), 107.

[2] Ibid., 104-105

[3] Ibid., 108

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