We come now to the last temptation of Jesus that Eugene Peterson describes in his new book, The Jesus Way.
The third temptation: rule the world. The devil wants to use Jesus to run the world, take charge of the world – ¢â‚¬Å“all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.¢â‚¬ What an offer! Who is more qualified? Here is the opportunity to establish a rule of peace and justice and prosperity. Create a government free of corruption. But of course it would have to be on the devil¢â‚¬â„¢s terms, a rule conditioned by the unholy if – ¢â‚¬Å“if you will fall down and worship me.¢â‚¬ The devil¢â‚¬â„¢s way would be absolutely perfect in its functions, but with no personal relationships.
The devil wants us to use Jesus in the same way. Use Jesus to run our families, our neighborhoods, our schools, our governments as efficiently and properly as we can, but with no love and forgiveness. Every man and women reduced to a function. That is the only way that you can have a just and peaceful and prosperous government. If you let people have a say in these matters, suddenly you will find yourself operating in a maelstorm of prejudice, egotism, ambition, superstition, ignorance, greed and avarice – you name it. Our newspapers and newscasts do name it every day. Meanwhile the devil is at our elbows, tempting us to impose ¢â‚¬Å“the right¢â‚¬ by eliminating freedom. Gandhi used to talk disparagingly of ¢â‚¬Å“dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.¢â‚¬
Jesus has a great deal to say about how we run the world – ¢â‚¬Å“kingdom¢â‚¬ and ¢â‚¬Å“world¢â‚¬ figure largely in what he was and is about. But he values our souls too much to ¢â‚¬Å“de-soul¢â‚¬ us in order to make us good. He will not impose his way on any of use – no, not one of us. He invites and he forgives. He seeks the lost and heals the hurt. He rebukes the proud and turns the other cheek. The final word that our Scriptures give us on Jesus is triumphant as the ¢â‚¬Å“ruler of the kings of the earth¢â‚¬ (Rev. 1:5) – the identical exalted position offered by the devil, but ruling, as it turns out, first from the Golgotha cross and now ¢â‚¬Å“seated at the right hand of the Father,¢â‚¬ carrying out the grand and comprehensive work of salvation in which all ¢â‚¬Å“will how in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call our in praise that he is the Master of it all, to the glorious honor of God the Father¢â‚¬ (Phil. 2:10-11 The Message).
Jesus was tempted to rule from a throne-bureaucracy of abstract rules and disembodied principles imposed on men and women apart from relational trust and worshiping love. He refused. The rule of Jesus is never impersonal, never nameless. (33-35)
Pastors, have we done just this very thing in our ministry? What Peterson is describing, it appears to me, is the objectification of the person. The person no longer has meaning outside of their ability to make our numbers bigger or as a tool to accomplish a ministry objective. We have moved out of the relational and made them an object. We do it for noble reasons, right? If we can ¢â‚¬Å“get everyone on board¢â‚¬ then we can change our world! What a great idea. Too often, however, we are using people to accomplish our picture of our world. This is not done out of relationship helping them be part of not only seeing the world through Christ¢â‚¬â„¢s eyes but letting Christ direct them in the what and how. We want them to conform to our idea of the ¢â‚¬Å“what¢â‚¬.
I shudder to think of how we use people so that we can move up the success ladder to another church or to a professorship at a school. No, we never start out that way; it kind of grows on us. Have you ever asked the question of someone, ¢â‚¬Å“Why don¢â‚¬â„¢t they get it?¢â‚¬ Maybe they don¢â‚¬â„¢t ¢â‚¬Å“get it¢â‚¬ because we¢â‚¬â„¢ve imposed business practices – which are heavily oriented toward objectification – instead of Jesus practices – which are always relational. Instead of using the church to accomplish what ¢â‚¬Å“God has called me to do¢â‚¬ why not turn the church over to Jesus and simply ¢â‚¬Å“follow [him].¢â‚¬
I repent now for how I have done this in the past and in the present. May we all seek God¢â‚¬â„¢s face on how we have done this.