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In But Not of the World

• Greg Boyd

In this sermon, Greg responded to the top five questions he received while preaching “The Cross and the Sword” series. Maybe you’ve been asking some of these questions: “What’s the difference between turning the other cheek and letting yourself be abused?” and “Are you saying that the church is politically irrelevant?”

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The recent sermons have evoked in some of us a number of questions. For this reason, Greg responded to what he considered the top five questions. The structure of this study guide is modified to engage us in the questions actively rather than having the questions and Greg’s responses read to us. Our hope is that you will have lively and respectful conversations on the five questions that follow. Greg’s responses to the five questions are found in the response section at the bottom.

Common Questions

  1. Are you saying that Christians should all be “pacifists”? If so, are you suggesting Christians can never participate in government or the military? The language of the cross and the sword make this question rise to the surface.
  2. Insofar as America stands for freedom, isn’t America a “Christian” nation?
  3. What’s the difference between “turning the other cheek” and letting yourself be abused?
  4. As people of God, aren’t we called to stand up against sin?
  5. Are you saying that the Church is politically irrelevant?

Greg’s Answers

  1. Greg referred us to Romans 13:4 and reminded us that God did set up the structures but that they have been corrupted by the enemy. There is a tension we have to deal with here, and Paul’s life manifests it. He writes strongly in favor of submission to authority in the first half of Romans 13, and yet we know that he spent quite a bit of time in jail for disobedience! One key principle of Romans 13 is that the divine purpose for the existence of government is the good of humanity. A second principle is that we are to give to each what is due. And finally, what is actually due to each, from the Christian perspective, is love – we are to love each other. Another point Greg made was that it may not be “ungodly” to wield the sword, but it is never a duty you are called to as a Christian. It may be a civil duty and in therefore a service to the good of humanity, but don’t try to drag the cross into that sort of thing. We may find ourselves in positions were our obedience is required of us in civil matters, but we do not get “spiritual credit” for doing so. All civilians are responsible to obey their leaders; Christians are no different in this regard.
  2. Greg’s main point here was to address the idea of “freedom” and be clear about the different ways it can be used. Freedom in politics gets associated with democracy. In the kingdoms of this world, it means that the people have a voice and a say in how things get done in the nation. Political freedom is one of the things that makes our country great! But our country is still like all other countries in that it is a structure in the kingdom of this world. The freedom that Jesus spoke about in John 8:32 is not the freedom of democracy. It is freedom from death, freedom from sin, freedom to be an heir and child of God. These are not freedoms an immigrant receives just by coming to America! The freedom Christ spoke of has to do with the ultimate and eternal truth of who God is and what God has done. This sort of freedom is available to all people regardless of what country a person is in and whether she is imprisoned or queen of the land. Don’t be confused that something is “Christian” just because the word “freedom” is being used as a rally cry! The Kingdom of God does not advance in that way.
  3. Greg reminded us that the great commandment is a good guide for addressing difficult issues. We know that we are to love and obey God first and foremost in all things. We also know that we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. It is presupposed both that we love ourselves in a godly way and that we keep God as the center of the issue. When a person is being abused, she needs to go to God and see what it is that God wants for everyone involved. God does not will our abuse, God does not will that others be abusive, but we cannot know exactly how God will lead us through the mess. We don’t want to simply enable abuse because that only increases the sickness; it is also not godly to give up your human dignity by allowing yourself to be abused. We are to overcome evil with good, and in this process, God must be the source that inspires us to see the way forward.
  4. Here Greg referenced 1 Cor. 5:12-13, 13:4-5 to point out that there is a clear context for holding one another accountable and standing up against sin. Only when there is a real covenant relationship can any real claim of accountability exist. First and foremost, we are to stand up against sin in our own lives. The vast majority of our attention to sin should be directed to ourselves. When you get done with that ? then you can hold others whom you have defined relationships with (spouse/small group member, etc.) accountable. When we try to hold people not living by our covenants accountable, it quickly becomes obvious that we are imposing our “stuff” onto them. They will see this immediately, and their seeing the truth of the gospel will be much harder. Remember Greg’s example of the woman who was divorced and remarried and wanted to pass a law prohibiting gay marriages. Her marriage was every bit as much sin as a gay one would be (recall Jesus’ words in Matt. 5:32)! We must be careful not to seek out dust particles in the eyes of others while we have a log in our own.
  5. Greg’s response here was that when the Kingdom of God is manifested in the kingdom of this world, it will bear fruit and get noticed. It will be more powerfully relevant than rallying as a niche group lobbying for a particular agenda. As we manifest God’s will, we will expose the flaws of the current systems and call attention to what is really important. Greg reminded us that Jesus made many politically relevant statements when he hung out with all the “wrong” people, as far as the established order was concerned. (Mark 2:16; Luke 7:34, etc.) A practical way to be politically relevant is by praying for our leaders (Ezek. 22:29-31), undoing social taboos (touching lepers!), exposing unjust religious rules, confronting racial issues, and resisting unjust government
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Topics: Controversial Issues, Nationalism, Politics, Power

Sermon Series: The Cross and the Sword

Downloads & Resources

Audio File
Study guide

Focus Scripture:

  • Romans 13:4

    For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

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