How do we go forward?
How do we go forward when there are so many blockades?
How do we make progress when there are so many obstacles in the way?
How do we move towards the Kingdom of God when so many impede the path?
We aren’t up against one obstacle or blockade. It’s multiple. It’s like the obstacles are stacked on top of each other and are set in rows for as far as the eye can see. And every stack is defended by people guarding the blockades.
What are the blockades? Racism, white supremacy, white nationalism, sexism, greed, valuing money over people and creation, toxic individualism, “don’t tell me what to do”-ism, narcissism, addiction to power, desire for control, addiction to violence, the myth of redemptive violence, us versus them, dualistic thinking, the ends justify the means, workaholism, drug addiction, broken criminal justice, fights over what is taught in schools, bad and destructive theology, might makes right, scapegoating, manipulation, passive aggression, abuse and abusive systems, partisanship as an idol, cult of personality, selfishness, personal comfort as more important than anything else, protecting privilege, nimbyism, being unwelcome to foreigners and strangers, condemnation of LGTBQ+, addiction to fame, blaming those in poverty for their situation, turning a blind eye to corruption, hypocrisy of claimed faith versus how it is lived out, rejection of peace efforts, etc.
That’s a huge list of blockades, and not the complete list either. And frankly, it’s overwhelming. It’s too much. It’s enough to make anyone want to just throw their hands up in the air, quit, and say – “fine, have it your way. Suffer the consequences of these ways that you worship. I’m done.” It makes a person want to go off on a far away island and not be bothered by humanity ever again.
Yet, you and I both know that there is no escape. These blockades don’t rest. And they aren’t ever satisfied. They won’t leave us alone, no matter where we try to escape. They use force because at their core, they are scared that the truth about them will be revealed – that they are empty and temporary. That they won’t last. That as long as one person stands up, speaks up, and stands in the way of their progress, they will eventually fall. The weight of their violence is too heavy to bear and they are not sustainable.
So where does that leave us. Not accepting them as normal or the way that we are to live. Our job is to proclaim Christ’s way, to live into it, and to invite others in to this way of living. And when these blockades come and the people who prop them up come, and they will, our job is to non-violently reject these ways, tell the truth about them, and go on living the way of Christ, and inviting people into the way of Christ.
It may cost us our lives. But know this, all that really does is confirm for all eternity that the blockades and the people who prop them up failed. They failed to get compliance. They failed to convert another person into the their emptiness. For all eternity, it will be known that they failed. Because these ways of violence always fail so long as one person rejects them. Ways of violence only succeed when they gain 100% compliance. And they never do. It’s all or nothing for ways of violence and abuse. And they can never get 100%. Which means they fail.
The way of Christ has been rejected more often than adopted in human history. That means any time that it is adopted is a win. The expectation for the way of Christ is 0% adoption. And so the miracle is that anyone adopts it and attempts to live into the way of Christ. And when they do, there is rejoicing. Because the Kingdom of God is taking root. It is spreading. It grows like a weed. It is like a seed that takes root in good soil. It is a shrub.
Empires are oriented towards protecting what they have through violence and use of force. They are oriented towards preserving the power that they have and getting 100% compliance. They are inward focused. They have everything to lose.
But Christ’s way, the kingdom of God, is oriented towards invitation – to expand beyond what it currently is. It assumes nothing. it starts with nothing and therefore has nothing to lose, but everything to gain. It is outward focused. And it rejoices as others come into the fold and alter it and shift it to accommodate and incorporate the fresh diversity of humanity that has been added. Because that’s what things that are alive do – that adjust, they adapt, and they grow.
The blockades are nothing more than weapons of empire theology. Offensive and defensive structures and systems designed to preserve abuse, domination, and compliance.
Here’s something I learned as a kid when I played soccer. You can’t win the game with defense.
Empires are focused on preserving what they have – their power. Even attacks outward are nothing more than buying time or a buffer to protect the empire and what it has. And it can’t ever win doing that.
I began this post by asking question of how we move forward. Remember, there is no escape from these things. So rather, it is better to march right into them, and reject them. Not as a frontal assault. But rather as offer an alternative and living into it, and inviting people to drop the blockades they are propping up. Those blockades are heavy. The burden is far less with Jesus’ way. Jesus’ way is oriented towards thriving life, not fear of loss.
Let us keep walking forward regardless of the barrage of blockades that come our way. Reject them. They can’t last. They aren’t designed to. And they know it. And remember the miracle – that any progress towards the Kingdom of God is a miracle in light of the blockades that are thrown in the way. That’s what keeps me going. You and I are part of a miracle.