Spiritual Vertigo: Jesus vs. Empire

Growing up I heard a lot of people talk about the separation between “Church & State”. Naturally hearing this all the time I later in my life assumed that they got this idea from the Bible. I assumed that Jesus never dealt with politics in his ministry (“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s”) and therefore we as a “Church” have no business diving into politics. But when you further look into the message of Jesus you notice that his language was filled with statements that would have challenged the empire of his day…namely Rome!

Rome was an empire that was considered by most to be the greatest achievement ever made by a dominant power. They had great wealth, military might, massive territory, etc. Now in this day and age there were several different groups of people living among the Romans, all “chosen people” of God, but with different ways of living out their “religion”. Some groups felt it was best to abandon society and create their own community of people dedicated to “not sinning”. Another group felt it was best to compromise their beliefs and become a part of the Roman empire, while still remaining purely Jew (try that one sometime!). Another group felt it was their duty to overthrow the government, one secret stabbing at a time. And another group felt it was their calling to relinquish all people of their sins by giving strict rules for all to abide by. But no matter what group they were a part of, to some extent they were all reliant on the great Roman Empire.

This is the world Jesus begins to deliver his message to. And when he came, it wasn’t with a secret message with hidden agendas. He came with a powerful message that completely challenged the political world as they knew it, it completely challenged the status quo, it completely challenged the Roman Empire. He used words that the people of the day would have understood. Like calling his message the “Good News”, a public term that was used by Roman’s to announce an important military victory. Caesar’s in the day were known to be a god or sons of god. Jesus message set himself up as the Son of God.

But most of all his public political message was about turning people’s hearts from dependence on the great military might of Rome, to the everlasting love of God their Father. He preached a message boldly that the kingdom of God had come and they were missing it because they were so focused on the safety of Rome.

But not only was Jesus preaching a message to switch allegiances to another empire, another kingdom, he was also preaching about a different kind of empire. In his empire, their was peace not war. In his empire, the outcast was first and the elite was last. In his empire, love conquered all. His empire was all about the journey in seeking a relationship with the One he called Father and seeing His kingdom established now, right before their eyes. It was a message that would have challenged everything political, everything that Rome stood for, everything the people in his day would have believed.

Now to modern day. When is the last time you saw a people group so set on following Jesus now, so passionate about seeing the kingdom move now, that they taught a message that challenged the status quo of our government today? And not with hateful words or violence, but rather with peace and love. Jesus caused “Spiritual Vertigo” to the people of Rome and to the government officials of his day. He challenged their thinking and caused them to doubt some of their beliefs. Because he knew the true and right way things could and should be. He is still doing that today. Causing people to rethink their views, rethink their allegiances, rethink the empire they are apart of. Its a message that challenges, its a message that calls for action. It is a call to leave the empire we know and join a greater empire. An empire that rules now and forever.

But what would the “Chosen People” (the Jews) of God think about this movement? They would need a message of their own. A message that pointed directly at them and showed them what could be.

And as for us, his message still holds true in our lives today.

It is a message to see the unseen and to follow the impossible!

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