A reflection prompted by Matthew 5 – 7 and recent world news.
The stories of revolution in the Middle East cannot have failed to capture our attention in recent months. The world is changing before our eyes. Whilst we might worry about oil prices and al-Qaeda, most of us will have great sympathy with the people rising up against their oppressors.
Freud saw the drama of revolution as a psychological one, the subversion being synonymous to energy stemming from a suppressed psyche and flooding our conscious minds with dreams and symptoms. The iconic image of Che Guevara speaks to such a deep energy for many. All Christians should understand the true call of revolution. In a hillside homily, Jesus asks us to change the world. Blessing awaits those who come to His revolution empty handed, ready for acts of mercy and peace-making. In Jesus’ vision of society, law and logic are surpassed in the sense that His love will make everything perfect. We will be truly free; our hearts will not betray our heads or our hands. Jesus ideology doesn’t give false hope, “love never fails”.
As revolutionaries, we face evil and persecution. Jesus told us “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword”. G.K. Chesterton wrote “Any man who preaches real love is bound to beget hate…Real love has always ended up in bloodshed”. As Jesus preached on one hillside he knew he would be crucified on another. We make ourselves vulnerable and we find freedom in surrender.
Revolution requires longing and discipline. Jesus calls us to quiet prayer; “your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is both our purpose and request. Revolution requires integrity and passion too, because “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. We must persevere, making real the hope of heaven in our hearts, being the change that we want to see in the world.
It has been said that “one man’s riot is another man’s revolution”. Church history shows us what it looks like when people forget what “the good fight” is, taking up a cause not truly of God; the revolution giving way to chaos. Jesus ends his sermon with a story of wise and the foolish builders; a challenge to hear His words and put them into practice. Timothy says “watch your life and doctrine closely”.
Until now it was the communist revolutions of the 20th century had most shaped recent history. Did Communism fill a gap that should have been filled by Christians? The liberation theology of Latin America challenges us to understand the social and political implications of Jesus’ teaching. He calls us to free people from oppression, give to the needy and care for the vulnerable. He warns that the rich and powerful can easily miss the Kingdom.
The first century Jews missed the point by thinking the saviour was coming to give them just political freedom and social change. There can be no greater victory than a heart turning to Christ. Political revolutions seek power for the people, Jesus simply asks us to surrender to His authority. He asks us to be de-nationalised, in Peter’s words “a holy nation, a people belonging to God”.
Che Guevara and his revolutionary dreams died in Bolivia. Christ died for us and the revolution truly began with that sacrifice, His full glory yet to be revealed. The revolution happens in the revelation of the risen Christ. He has changed the world, He is changing the world, and He will change the world. The only question is, are you in?
Dr Heather Hanna is a Consultant Psychiatrist for Children with a Learning Disability. She is interested in international development, is a Board member of Habitat for Humanity N.I. and is a member of the Presbyterian Church.