Over the weekend I watched a live concert DVD from a band called “Rage Against the Machine”.
Their message and their attitude – as one might expect – is not only rage, but more specifically “outrage” at the injustices of our society and the crimes of our government against the innocent people of this nation, and also against people in other nations.
So, they crank up their guitars and they pound on their drums and they shout and scream against this injustice.
But as I watched this concert and listened to them make their case, I couldn’t help but notice the futility of all this rage.
I mean, if all you have is anger and rage, what good does that do you? What good does it do for those people who have been exploited? In what way does it make anything better or change anything for the good?
Well, I had to confess, it doesn’t do any good at all.
Perhaps it is the overwhelming sense of futility and powerlessness that fuels this rage in the first place?
But what else can be done, really?
We see the injustice. We want to do something about it. But we realize we have no real power to make it stop. So, all we have left to do is to just rage about it.
But, is that really all we can do?
What if, instead of raging against the machine we tried to love against the machine?
Isn’t this what Jesus had in mind?
He showed up and essentially said, “You’ve made a mess of your life. Your leaders have made a mess of this world. If you’re ready to try something new – to repent of all of the “eye for an eye” escalation of violence – here’s another way to live: Love your enemies.”
This is the kind of love Jesus is talking about: Unconditional, irrational, exceptional love beyond explanation. The Greek for that kind of love is “Agape”.
It’s a preemptive love – a proactive agape – that demonstrates love to others simply because, without any strings attached.
You see, Jesus knows that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.
Jesus wants us to admit that a mindless continuation of “you hurt me, so I’ll hurt you” methodology will get us – and has never gotten us – anywhere but here.
In other words, if someone doesn’t break the “eye for an eye” chain early on, we’ll all eventually end up blinded.
So, Jesus says, “Follow me!”
Following Jesus means loving our enemies, blessing those who curse us, praying for those who mistreat us, and disarming their hate with His agape love.
I know, it seems so powerless, doesn’t it? I mean, how could love and mercy and forgiveness and compassion ever make a difference?
Jesus said it was like a small mustard seed, or a little bit of yeast. He said this love of God – which seems so small and weak – is secretly revealed to be an unstoppable source of transformational energy capable of changing us, and everyone around us, from the inside out.
Yes, the world is a dark place. Yes, the powers of greed, war, hate and lust seem so far beyond our means to stop.
But we know something they don’t know: We know that the power of weakness is actually the power of Christ at work within us.
We know that even the smallest flame cannot be snuffed out by all the darkness in the universe.
We know that even the tiniest seed can grow into a massive weed that overtakes the entire garden and spreads like wildfire across the continents.
We know that even the tiniest baby can melt the hardest heart.
Let me ask: “How could you ever defeat an enemy who only gained strength as he got weaker?”
Answer: “You can’t.”
This is what Paul wants us to understand when he talks about the “power of weakness” which is impossible to overcome. [See 2 Cor. 12]
This means that we, in our weakness, are carriers of the unlimited power of Christ.
How do we unleash this power? By doing what He did – We let go of our own identity and status and rights and lay down everything, even unto death (see Philippians 2:5-10).
When we do this, the power of Christ flows through us like super-charged thermonuclear energy.
Our response of love is more critical than we might think.
This, I believe, is what Paul the Apostle has in mind in Romans chapter 12. First, he appeals to the unspeakable glory of God (at the end of chapter 11) and urges us to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God. Then he tells us not to be conformed to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed.
So that we can love others (v.9-10), and so that we can bless those who persecute us (v.14), repay the evil with blessings (v.17), live at peace with all men (v.18), refrain from vengeance (v.19), feed our enemies (v.20) and, eventually, even overcome evil with good (v.21).
Do you see what Paul suggests? He’s saying that once we are transformed we need to live transformed lives.
Why? So that our lives can un-make this world of darkness and unleash the resurrection power of Christ.
This is why we turn the other cheek. This is why we pray for those who hate us. This is why we are called peacemakers.
Not to be doormats, but to be warriors of the transformation.
We are each like little a virus that transforms an organism from the inside out.
Jesus has a plan to re-make the world, and this process is already in motion.
“And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” [Rev. 21:5]
That includes you and me.
It also includes the powers of darkness.
One day, and it may be very soon, the kingdoms of this world will crumble and fall.
One day, the Kingdom of our God will overtake all other kingdoms.
Every knee will bow.
Every tongue will confess.
“Jesus is Lord.”
So, whenever you see injustice, even it makes you feel like raging, take a moment and remember to love against the machine.
This is the only power we have to change anything.
“Love never fails.” – 1 Cor. 13
Keith Giles is the author of “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb”. He loves against the machine in Orange, CA.