Most of us were prepared to hunker down and endure what we expected to be the most rancorous electoral season of our lifetime, amped up on the steroids of impeachment and conspiratorial speculation. Then, the COVID19 pandemic invaded and sent us all to our rooms for an extended stay, only now in more recent weeks once again to spike and surge here and there. And, finally, video from nearly all directions has surfaced to shine light on the other viral pandemic threatening our world—racism fueled by the presumption of white supremacy documenting clearly and lethally that Black Lives do NOT matter nearly enough.
Some say a perfect storm now rages across the land. Others think we have come to a tipping point in our part of the world—we’ve seen enough and felt enough that something simply must change. I am convinced as followers of Jesus we must recognize and seize the gift of a Kairos-Moment from the Lord of history, creating space for breakthroughs in cherishing one another, and especially persons of color, as never before. Then, for cultivating a culture and systems that more truly reflect God’s plan for all the special beings that bear God’s image.
“Kairos” is a Greek term for a special moment or season of “time.” It’s not like the more frequent “chronos,” denoting time in the sense of duration or measurement. “Kairos” is time in the sense of occasion or opportunity. Chronos time conditions us constantly—seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks and so on. Kairos time gathers to a point and then presents itself. If there’s a perfect storm, I suggest, the Kairos is the eye of the storm, providing calm and context for recalibrating our bearings and redirecting our course. If there’s a tipping point, the Kairos comes in the moments just before, during and after, when we may position ourselves for the change that will come.
Sadly, however, in this current Kairos-moment followers of Jesus in the U.S. are themselves conflicted and compromised. We are conflicted in the same ways most others are. We have accepted the narratives woven together by partisan ideologues on the right and on the left: In general, either, “Once upon a time God founded our nation” … or “… the devil did!” In turn, these narratives offer and drive alternate responses: Either we must rebuild the nation as it was and return its lost glory … or dismantle it and build another the right way.
Both narratives, however, are wrong, especially in the simple and stark way I put them. God did not found the nation, nor did the devil. Human beings did, and some of what they did reflected heaven and some hell. For example, we are glad they insisted all humans are created equal (Heaven) … but sad to acknowledge this didn’t include the slaves among them, or the women (Hell). But most of the competing narratives also include features that are right. What reflected heaven’s rule should be identified, examined and embraced, while whatever mirrors hell’s distortion and destruction should be exposed, confessed, and banished. But who and where are the people who could even begin to do such things?
Of course, I want to answer, followers of Jesus living here and there salting and illumining their part of the world! But if the salt has lost its savor and the light no longer shines … what then?
What indeed! According to Jesus, though, this is the plan: that his followers would salt and illumine their world. Again, according to Jesus, this is the plan that will have impact, especially in terms of embodying a Kingdom narrative enacting a Kingdom way of living that does not derive its origins, values, and methods from the world as it is but from Another—from the realm of the King. Yes, according to Jesus, such salting and illumining tells a different story, a cross and resurrection narrative where serving and sacrificing out of love for one another, and the others of our world, bring a healing to the personal and communal failings and brokenness that plague the human story as it has come to be. A cross and resurrection narrative that cultivates and curates thinking, feeling, willing, and acting like we see in the life of Jesus, supported by the Spirit of Jesus breathing Jesus-love into and through our daily lives. A cross and resurrection narrative where every human being experiences the favor of the God who regards her or him as of inestimable value. And, a cross and resurrection narrative where from the dust of one world arises a new world with a new humanity beloved and loving, bearing the likeness of Jesus in multifaceted ways.
So, here we are in the Kairos-moment, in the eye of the perfect storm, in the intervals before, during and after changes come. Our responses must rise out of that alternate, Kingdom narrative, giving a better expression of what the other narratives get right (more or less), and repudiating clearly what the other narratives get so dreadfully wrong.
In the present Kairos-moment we must face the evils of racism based on white-supremacy and seize the opportunity to respond to evil in ways compatible with a cross and resurrection Kingdom narrative. Here are some trajectories from that narrative that seem helpful for Jesus’ followers today. They come from the Apostle Paul’s instructions to the churches in Rome where persons of different cultures were becoming communities of Jesus together. They had been accepted and forgiven through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, given new life through Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, and were empowered by Jesus’ Spirit to learn a new way to live—as individuals and communities that relate to one another the way Jesus relates to them.
Now, on the basis of these awesome expressions of God’s mercy toward them, really us all, they/we are not to be defined and driven by the traditions, habits and patterns of the cultures of this world, but by the love God shares with us in Jesus (Rom. 12:2). This fleshes itself out in a variety of ways. Here are some of them.
The cross and resurrection narrative leads us to end one life and begin another—so, “present your whole selves, literally your (bodies), as living sacrifices,” (Rom. 12:1). We must come to terms with the old life as fallen, sinful, enslaved to the powers of darkness, captivated by perverse and deceptive desires that lead only to death. And, this goes for Jews as well as for gentiles. This goes for church folk as well as all the other folk.
The cross and resurrection narrative will lead us to a new mind that is set on the Spirit of Jesus, follows the path of Jesus, and develops the qualities of character and reflexive responses of Jesus. A new mind that reflects life and peace, freedom and joy, hope and love.
And, thus, the cross and resurrection narrative will demand practices and responses to one another that Paul spells out.
- We will not think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Which means not more highly than we do anyone Jews are not superior to gentiles in the cross and resurrection story. Nor can white people claim any supremacy over persons of color. Part of thinking appropriately about self is aspiring and practicing the preference of others ahead of self. More, it is to use your gifts—which are all of grace, not our genes, education or accomplishments—for the well-being of others. Seriously, it is to plan and then to activate one’s grace-abilities for building others up, whether you are a prophet or a mercy-giver. Further, thinking rightly about self will include befriending and sharing with other persons considered low, unimportant, and even contemptible by the world. Once you would never have associated with them; now they are friends. More tellingly, you are their friends.
- We will love genuinely, sincerely, and authentically. The measure of such authenticity is rejecting evil and clinging to good, as the Spirit helps us assess the evil and good by the life and ministry of Jesus. Authentic love reaches deeply within to share the joys, sorrows and hopes of the Family of God and reaches outwardly to the world of others who are strange, hostile, threatening, and even violent toward us. Indeed, love blesses those who curse, pursue and would harm us; and love seeks the well-being and flourishing of all people in the way God does. Love will not retaliate, for that would be the evil they reject. Rather, love will feed and refresh the enemy, clinging to the good revealed in Jesus. Thus, love will overcome the evil with good.
In the present Kairos-moment God has in place communities of Jesus-followers in the world who will salt and illumine the world in these ways. The question for us is whether we and our communities will be among them.
Here are two final observations. First, a cross and resurrection Kingdom narrative for our time has a passive sense. That is, as salt does, we may form communities, embedded in our neighborhoods, that enact the new humanity God is creating through Jesus. And, as salt does, our neighborhoods can sense and taste how it is when all are precious and privileged alike because of the amazing grace of God, and the world can see what happens when we do not think more highly of ourselves but honor and give place to others, especially others who have suffered the sinful assaults of racism by those who regard themselves to be superior. As the salt works there will be change.
But, second, a cross and resurrection Kingdom narrative for our time must have an active sense. As light shines it goes where before there was only darkness and the darkness leaves. So we must go to the places of darkness and to those who love the darkness and let the light that is in us banish the darkness. This is metaphor, of course, and so “darkness” signals only part of the reality (even as “light’ does). Even so, as we let light shine, expressing the crucified and risen Kingdom Truth about God and people, we expect to demonstrate the difference such Truth makes, and we expect darkness to flee.
Unlike most of God’s people for most of history, we have opportunities to shape the governance over us and to help hold it accountable. We can protest and demonstrate for what is right. We can vote for leaders and legislators who are responsible for that governance. And we can enter the spheres of governance themselves in order from within to salt and illumine them in keeping with the unfolding cross and resurrection Kingdom narrative.
If our part of the world is weathering a perfect storm and reaching a tipping point, we must recognize the present Kairos-moment. A Person of Color has shown us the way, the truth and the life. He did not think himself superior to others (though he was) but placed himself at the service of all others, loved them and served them, poured out his life for them until he breathed his last as he hung on a tree. Then God vindicated this One and his way, exalted and enthroned him, and will put everything under his feet in the end. His followers know that the future belongs to this One and his way of ordering human life and community. They salt and illumine their world by walking in his footsteps; they treat one another, their neighbors and potentially all persons in the way he treats them; and they take his light to the places and lovers of darkness. In the Kairos-moment, we must play our part as agents of such a cross and resurrection Kingdom narrative.