Trading in Selfish Ambition for Sacrificial Love
On January 6th, 2021, a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the federal Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. in defiance of Congress moving to confirm the President’s electoral defeat.1 The group who besieged the Capitol was largely made up of self-identified Christians fueled by a long-developing belief in some ideological circles that this President is God’s chosen servant, destined to lead America against the tides of postmodernism and secularism.2 Fueled by the President’s own rhetoric, a sizable group of his more enthusiastic supporters have erupted in violence, hate, and domestic terrorism.
The human impulse to prop up a leader who suits our own interests is not new. A very similar thing is described to have happened in John’s story of the teaching and healing career of Jesus. After Jesus miraculously feeds a crowd of thousands, John describes the crowd turning into a mob with a new plan to “…take [Jesus] by force to make him king.”3
Again, this isn’t a unique thing, but a very universal human desire; we love to elevate figureheads who will represent our personal agendas. What is unique, however, is how Jesus responds to the plans of the mob. John tells us that, seeing this coming, “Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself,” to retreat from the mob and their own political plans for him.4
Though he disregards the plans of the crowd, Jesus isn’t denying that he is a king. The difference is in what kind of king he is. As Jesus says later in John’s biography of his life: “…my kingdom is not of this world.”5 Now, being “not of this world” does not mean that the kingdom which Jesus is proclaiming is a disembodied, completely “spiritual” kingdom which is divorced from this world. On the contrary, while his kingdom is not of (or from) the world, it certainly is for the world.
Not being of the world means that citizens of this kingdom don’t participate in what the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche called “the will to power,” or the innate desire of human beings to dominate one another for the sake of their own interests.6 Being for the world means that we who seek to follow in the footsteps of our King are showing the world a new way of existing as human beings, where we operate not out of our own interests, but with the same self-giving love that he did.
At its essence, we are called to bring life to the people, places, and powers where death still reigns supreme by living out and demonstrating the ironic victory of the way of the cross over the tired old way of the sword. Let us remember this fact as we continue to navigate what has been called a “very dark winter”7 dominated by the twin forces of pandemic and political unrest.
1. See Ted Barrett, Manu Raju, and Peter Nickeas (CNN Politics) – US Capitol secured, 4 dead after rioters stormed the halls of Congress to block Biden’s win (published January 7, 2021; accessed January 7, 2021)
2. Gina Cilberto, Stephanie Russell-Kraft (Sojourners) – They Invaded the Capitol Saying ‘Jesus is My Savior. Trump is My President’ (published January 6, 2021; accessed January 7, 2021); see also: Jeffrey Goldberg (The Atlantic) – Mass Delusion in America (published January 6, 2021; accessed January 7, 2021)
5. John 18:36
6. Friedrich Nietzsche – Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Penguin Classics)
7. Cecelia Smith-Schoenwalder (U.S. News) – Biden Warns of ‘Very Dark Winter’ as U.S. Approaches 10 Million Coronavirus Cases (published November 9, 2020; accessed January 7, 2021)