Pam and I have recently begun watching “The Good Wife.” Please don’t spoil anything for us because we are only in the second season right now. One of the things that I have found most interesting about the series thus far is how the concept of faith has been dealt with in the show. A couple of the main characters (bouncing off the title I would refer to them as “the bad husband” and “the do the wrong thing daughter”) have had close encounters with Christian faith and the response of the family around them has seemed to be to view the possibility of these discovers of faith as a threat to their political ambitions and way of life. This might change in future episodes, like I said Pam and I are only in the second season right now. All I know is that I love this portrayal of faith as a danger to the present power. I believe it is honest.
Real faith in Christ is a threat to one’s present way of life. Jesus has a manner of coming into a person’s life and turning everything around. He especially likes to play around with the power dynamics of a culture that a believer lives in. That whole “first shall be last” and “when [you are] weak, then [you are] strong” thing goes against the way a society typically functions. If it is really lived out it has a tendency to really mess with people and society.
The Romans understood this about early Christians. Jesus was killed by the Romans because he was viewed as a threat to the peace of the Empire. He was handed over by the religious leadership of His culture because he was viewed as a threat to their power and possibly sparking trouble with Roman. Jesus and His kingdom were a threat to the powers of the culture of the day because Jesus’ kingdom would change everything from priorities to practice. Powers don’t like that kind of change.
Power has a tendency to deal with threats of that kind of change by trying to annihilate the threat. After all, those of us who are followers of Christ know that Jesus gave His life for sinners like me to have a relationship with God, but the Empire of the day thought they were sacrificing Him to maintain their power. From their view the only appropriate response to the threat of Christ was to get rid of Him. Caiaphas, the high priest, saw the threat Jesus’s new kingdom represented and said “it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” It made sense to them because they needed to protect the powers of that time, which they thought brought stability, from the obvious threat of instability that Jesus brought with Him.
After Jesus death and resurrection His followers continued to be a pain in the side of the powers of the day. Thus the persecution of the early church. Early Christians were killed over a theological debate but the debate wasn’t was
Some of the Anabaptist leaders that I admire the most viewed suffering and persecution as a mark of the actual church of Christ. As the Anabaptists learned from personal experience the powers of a society don’t respond nicely to people that they view as threats to their power and way of life.
If Jesus would only morph into everyone’s personal agenda then everything would be nice and cozy. He wouldn’t be a threat then. He would just be a god who wanted us to be better citizens and work within the powers of the society to make everyone nicer. He wouldn’t be pushing His own kingdom where everything that the powers value is flipped on its head.
Of course, the real Jesus doesn’t fit into other people’s agendas. He has His own agenda and that is summarized in His kingdom where the last are first and weakness equals strength. Jesus is the type of God where even those who eventually will become some of His closest followers initially respond to the threat that He is by saying “go away from me, Lord.” You don’t say that to a god who isn’t a threat to your agenda for a nice life, but you might say that to the God Who is a threat to it.
I guess that is why I like the portrayal I have been seeing on “The Good Wife.” These characters see the possibility of another character that they love encountering Jesus as messing everything up and playing around with the present power dynamics. I think they have it right because that’s is exactly what Jesus does.
For me the question comes back to whether Jesus is changing the priorities and values or my life and how I live within my culture. Is He messing with my life by changing my values into the values of His kingdom. Is He doing it in your life? Is Jesus a threat to the status quo of us and our society?
SIDE NOTE – If you are wondering about the above photo it is from “Threat Level Midnight.”