Is the Manhattan Declaration an Affront to the Teachings of Jesus?
- Monday, December 21, 2009
Perhaps you've noticed the commotion lately over The Manhattan Declaration, which includes vows such as, "We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence."
In spite of such contentious statements, most of the articles I've read center a debate on who's aligning with whom. For instance, should Evangelicals be aligning with Catholics and Anglicans? In my opinion, these debaters have ignored the far more critical question raised by the manifest "Is civil disobedience Biblical for believers (whomever they might be)?"
The Manhattan Declaration (TMD) certainly opens a Pandora's box of subjective interpretation and self-governed responses to authority, all potentially "in the name of Jesus." As the Church, we need to take a second thoughtful look at what Jesus would have us do in regard to the laws of the land as they conflict with the laws of His Kingdom.
Certainly many believers might point to specific passages in the Old Testament to justify resistance or even violence by some of the workings of God through Israel against neighboring nations. However, the intent of many of the Old Testament natural world examples were to reveal spiritual applications and truths that would be fulfilled through Christ. Therefore, we will conservatively use New Testament examples of Jesus' practices and Paul's teachings to identify His intent in and through His Church. Did Jesus ever teach His followers to reject or defy secular authority in this current age? We'll explore four directives:
Jesus came in peace: In Zechariah 9:9 we read: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey…"
Just before His death, the crowds praised Jesus during His triumphal entry into Jerusalem because they believed He was heading into the city to set up His Kingdom by force. Surely this was the King they and their ancestors had anticipated for so long and He had finally come to save His people from oppressive and corrupt rule of men.
But those same people who praised Him one day cursed Him the next when He submitted Himself to the cruelty of the Jewish and Roman authorities. He did not fight back, and neither did He open His mouth in defense (Isaiah 53:7). What went wrong? How had they misunderstood the prophecies of a powerful Messiah?
Perhaps they ignored the part about the "humble King mounted on a donkey." Or perhaps they didn't understand its meaning. In Bible times, kings who rode donkeys came in peace while kings who rode horses came for war. It was no accident that Jesus rode a donkey for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem at the conclusion of His first appearance on earth. His first mission was to establish peace between God and man by destroying the power of sin. This was the greater victory, requiring His humble surrender to death on a cross so that He might conquer His Kingdom in the Spirit, not in the flesh.
It's no different in the Church age today. We are to follow His example of winning the Kingdom peacefully through the Spirit, not outwardly by the flesh. In Ephesians 6:12, Paul said, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." And again in 1 Cor. 10:4: "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses."
Jesus promoted the Gospel: The New Testament teaches that the true Church is the "body of Christ." In this age, I believe we are to imitate and even magnify His work in bodily form—to submit ourselves to the rule of this world for a time in order to establish the work of the Spirit. What is this work of the Spirit?
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