The Revolution of the Gospel

From John McKenzie’s The Power and the Wisdom:

Yet the gospel is in some ways revolutionary, and no other word seems to do it justice.  Efforts to conventionalise the gospel and to curb its dynamism take away much of its effect…The world, we said, both of men at large and the individual person, is irreparably altered by the Christian event.  This suggests revolution. The old man of sin dies, and his world dies; this also suggets revolution…The Christian event occurs when the situation has become intolerable, with the difference that the situation has never been tolerable.

But the Christian event is not itself violent; and its effects are not felt through vulgar power.  Jesus himself spoke of its power in the parables of the leaven and the mustard.  It arouses no hot passions, and it does not divide except when rejected; Jesus said he came to bring not peace but a sword.  Man’s resistance to the inbreak of God creates a situation compared to which most revolutions are playful.  Man resists it because he cannot grasp the direction of the Christian revolution.  It moves to give man something, not to take anything away; and man is so incredulous in the presence of such a paradoxical event that he resists it with all of his strength.  Man is not yet ready for love.  He never has been.

The essential note of the Christian revolution is that it is perpetually new.  It is no less a challenge to the old world of sin and death now than it was at the beginning of the Christian era.  Its demands are no less, and the total commitment which the Christian must make has not been diminished.  The reflective reader of the New Testament comes to sense that what he reads is thoroughly contemporary, and that the tension between history and eschatology is resolved in him.  And when it is resolved in him, he knows that it is resolved in the Church.  Jesus lives–yesterday, today, and the same forever.  History has not changed him at all, nor has it changed his meaning for human existence.  By union with him the Christian is released from the prison of history; and this is eschatology by definition.  We end where we began, with an event which is more than historical.  It is the one enduring reality in the created world, and in it man achieves enduring reality and value.

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