Yesterday we were at the house of some of our best friends and I picked up their copy of the New Statesman. Given my last blog, you would think I had already seen it! So I was excited to read from a selection of contributors what “revolution” means to them. Noam Chomsky starts by quoting Rosa Luxemburg’s ‘eloquent critique’ of Leninist doctrine: “a true social revolution requires a spiritual transformation of the masses degraded by centuries of bourgeois class rule”. Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick give a powerful rebuttal of those like Stalin and Mao who stole the concept of revolution in the pursuit of power and control. They are equally scathing of trivialising the very idea of revolution in the west by a pathetic misapplication of the word to things which matter very little. But they show that these things have not discredited the true idea of revolution, just as 2000 years of Crusades, child abuse, warfare and oppression perpetrated in the name of Christianity have not discredited the social revolution of Jesus Christ.
To my mind there has never been and will never be a more revolutionary person than Jesus. And if it is true that revolution requires a spiritual transformation of the masses, in my view, it is to him that we should look. Jesus had no qualms about deliberately setting a political course which utterly undermined the bourgeois class of his day. When he declared himself to be the son of God, he was directly challenging and undermining both the religious and political authorities. He came to declare that God can not be put away in a temple or related to by only a few special people, but is here to be known by everyone, whoever they are and wherever they live. He came to demonstrate that God has nothing to do with empire in any of its forms and is in fact the antithesis of it. He came to reveal the priorities of God lie not with the rich and powerful, but with the poor, the broken, the marginalised, the sick, the refugees and asylum seekers, the oppressed – in particular women and children and those in prison. His life was one of extreme love and his leadership was that of servanthood, quite different to the image of God many of us conjure up in our minds when we think of the divine….
His death was not caused by an angry God needing retribution for all the ways we have offended him. His death was the result of a life laid down, loving other people, which so challenged the status quo that they wanted rid of him. And in the moment of his death, instead of calling for retribution on his oppressors, he makes a public demonstration of how appalling human behaviour and the powers can be at times, calling us instead to the way of forgiveness. In his death we find the forgiveness for all our fallen humanity, all that seeks to control, abuse, and destroy ourselves, our communities and the earth we live in. But in his resurrection, we find hope that love is in fact stronger than death. So, when we set our lives in the way of this revolution of overcoming love, even if we lose our lives in the process, they are not lost. The ‘ruling powers’ have already been defeated by this way and one day all things will be made right, every tear will be wiped away and there will be no more war. And the fruit of our toil, no matter in what arena of life we work will be seen in those days. Jesus never came to found a religion. Nor did he come to make himself emperor. Slowly, after centuries of believing some contrary things about him, we are coming full circle to understand just how utterly radical he is.
His invitation is still there for us to stop living for ourselves, change the way we think and to follow him. To make his priorities our priorities and in so doing to transform the world we live in. And better still, he doesn’t leave us alone, but has given us the same spirit that is within him, to be in us, so we can also recover what it means to be fully and truly human. We can be healers, reconcilers, forgivers, servants and revolutionaries just like him. As I have followed Jesus, I have found my life has been utterly transformed and I am finding the grace and power to live in this radical way. By no means am I perfect and by no means have I made it, but in him I find the hope for transformation. You can believe whatever you want to and go wherever you want to go, but if we want to see a real revolution that changes the world for good and forever, I commend Jesus as a really good place to start.