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This was Tolstoy’s favourite painting, by his artist friend Nikolay Ge. It is called What is Truth? – “showing a solid Pontius Pilate and a fiery-eyed Christ in conversation.” The Russian censors stopped its distribution because it depicted religion as a challenge to government. Christ is defiant here, not submissive, and Tolstoy loved the philosophical implications. Tolstoy had no taste for traditional church art, mostly Madonnas and Saints, that people kissed with devotion.
Tolstoy considered Ge’s work (spelled Gay outside Russia) to be “a new epoch of Christian art…. taking a simple motif… Christ and his teaching in conflict with the teaching of the world… depicted with complete historical accuracy the moment when Christ… after being tormented, beaten and dragged from one jail to another and from one official to another, is brought before the governor… Christ sees before him a deluded man bloated with fat, but he decides not to spurn him… and so begins to express to him the essence of his teaching. But the governor is not concerned with this. He says ‘What is truth?’ and goes away. And Christ looks sorrowful at this impenetrable man” (Tolstoy’s Letters, Volume II, pgs. 460, 462, 467 and 508).
In Tolstoy’s time the typical Russian peasant home had a couple pictures on the wall that they adored each day. An icon of a saint and a picture of the tsar. The one they believed to be God in heaven and the other god on earth. Tolstoy challenged all that, and believed Jesus’ teaching was politically subversive. I agree.
At lunch today I dove into my latest issue of Mission Frontiers – Mission Frontiers comes every other month from the US Center for World Mission. I’ve read it cover to cover since the 80’s. Today my attention was drawn to an article called “His Kingdom Come: An Integrated Approach to Discipling the Nations and Fulfilling the Great Commission.”
The article reviews a book by the same title – the book is a collection of 30 articles written by YWAM’s senior leadership team. I LOVE reading how the 30 senior leaders of YWAM are saying the great commission is bigger than individual conversions. After all, Jesus said “GO and make disciples of nations…” Sadly we have conveniently read that to only mean we are to disciple individuals in all the nations. The late Dr. Ralph Winter was “ecstatic” about this current thinking at YWAM and he commented:
I am very excited about this book. It is important evidence of a major organization turning very gradually and definitely into a nation-building kingdom type of mission, in addition, of course to the ongoing stress on personal conversion.
No one is advocating downplaying personal conversion, only that we return to the mandate to disciple nations. Discipling nations is the mission of the church. It’s what the Founders of our nation did – 27 of the 56 signers of the Declaration had seminary degrees, many were ordained ministers. These men laid a righteous foundation under our nation that we have since shifted away from. Today the nation is being discipled by (called to follow) those who don’t know God and in fact, are hostile to him.
How do you disciple a nation with a nation of churches convinced they should stay separate from state? The leaders of YWAM are spot on – being salt isn’t about just about getting someone to say a sinner’s prayer, it’s about influencing culture and coming alongside those who shape society, including those who make laws.
I contend it’s impossible to disciple a nation and not be political. The leaven of the Kingdom must permeate every sphere of society (the loaf); media and entertainment, education, medicine, law, government, family, charity, agriculture, environment, and business.
On Sunday I shared out loud some of my latest thoughts on this… Would I rather have 700 people sitting there staring at me each weekend taking in my latest inspirational idea that will help their private faith in Christ? Or, would I rather have seven people from our church occupying seats at our state legislature or school board or city council? I know it doesn’t have to be either/or, but right now it is one and not the other – the church is disengaged. So, how about you— in terms of discipling nations– those seven seats in the state legislature just may bring more kingdom transformation in a region than all the seats in our largest church auditoriums.
2010 will be a good year for the righteous to win elections – pastors should encourage key people in their congregations to run for office. “When the righteous rule, the people rejoice.” (Prov. 29:2) I’m sharing this not out of anger or frustration but rather out of vision. My sense is what lies ahead will require Kingdom-minded people at the table where decisions are made. We can continue to curse the darkness or we can embody the light in our nation.
The Muslims have the momentum on the dominion of the earth right now and we don’t want that for our kids future. Some say its too late because Christianity for most amounts to not much more than sitting in church each weekend looking at the back of the head of the guy in front of you. The salt has lost it’s saltiness and we wonder why we are getting trampled.