The whole world is under the control of the evil one.
—1 John 5:19
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So here’s the low-down: Jesus is still an apprentice and his boss sends him into the boondocks to run a few tests to check his progress toward journeyman savior. If the boy passes, he’s ready to get himself killed. If not, it’s hasta la vista Easter bunny. After forty days on a zero-carb diet, Jesus is ready for the final round. So who should show up but Mr. Infernal himself, fresh off another world tour and flush with excess. He takes quick stock of the rather haggard-looking kid and is not all that impressed. He sighs. Ever since the Job fiasco, things have been a little slow in the righteous hero business. And if this is the best the ΑΩ™ can do, it’s going to be a boring millennium. But the devil’s got a job to do so he gets to it.
The devil starts out easy with the boy by baiting him with a simple conjuring trick. Turn the stone into bread and we’ll call it good. But Jesus doesn’t go for it. No surprise. These wannabe heroes always take the high road at first. So he hauls the boy to the roof of the Herod’s temple in Jerusalem. The devil hasn’t been all that comfortable with heights since the ill-fated rebellion got him drop-kicked out of heaven. That was a hell of a fall, and it took him a few thousand years before he could speak in complete sentences again. He decides to expedite this round by using a little holy writ to get the boy to jump. No go. He should have known better than to borrow tactics from the big guy’s playbook. No matter. The devil knows he’s got an ace in the abyss. In a flash of sulphur he yanks Jesus to the top of a very high mountain and, through the marvel of supernatural technology, shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. Satan levels his gaze at this pitiful son of a carpenter and makes a deadly serious proposition: “I will give you all their authority and splendor.” Then, before Jesus can protest, the devil adds, “It has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.”
Whoa. Say what?
Yeah, that’s what I thought he said. Seems we’ve got ourselves a change of ownership of this joint—or at least a significant shift in the management. I notice that Jesus doesn’t argue the point either. If the devil had been bluffing, I’m guessing Jesus would have been on him like acid rain. Besides, this is a God-sanctioned temptation here. If the devil couldn’t deliver, there’d be no temptation in it. No, the plain sense of the text (and the context) is that the devil has all the world’s power and glory in his back pocket and the right to hand them over to the dupes of his own choosing. And, apparently, this didn’t change when the fully-vetted son of God went supernova on Easter morning either. Not even when the Ghost set fire to the upper room. According to John, the beloved confidant of the erstwhile carpenter, who is writing some sixty years after Jesus uploaded into the Cloud, the whole world is STILL under the control of the evil one.
So much for Christian cultural transformation, kiddies. Good luck with the political salvation thing. This world ain’t yours for the taking, and its current landlord has no intention of handing you the keys. You can bind it, you can loose it, you can break it, you can spruce it—but you cannot have it. If the first disciples, with their thermonuclear spiritual weaponry, couldn’t jerk system control from the devil, then current Christian pretensions to the throne, whether by hook or by crook, are radically misguided and futile.
The Christian fight isn’t for this kingdom at all. This one’s a total loss and will never ever be recovered—even by Jesus. This world and its kingdoms are destined for destruction. Jesus says it point-blank: “My kingdom is not of this world . . . my kingdom is from another place.” The Christian mission is not to overthrow the devil’s rule here or—hello—to make peace with it. The Christian mission, as the Apostle Paul writes, is to rescue people from the dominion of darkness and bring them into the kingdom of the Son. This thing isn’t about the transformation of this world; it’s about extraction from it. The Gospel is about a transfer from the devil’s kingdom into Christ’s—and never the twain shall meet. Any efforts otherwise, even in Jesus’ name, are doomed to failure.
The point? Stop bellyaching about social and cultural evils. Don’t use Christian morality as a bludgeon to pummel Washington DC or the culture into submission. Morality can’t save anybody, so why foist it on a world that doesn’t even want to be saved in the first place? And keep your rabid political rants to yourself. You aren’t convincing anybody, only cheapening the Gospel by highjacking it for narrow partisan agendas. As a result, born-again Christianity has become a byword and a curse. Congratulations.
Look. I’m not saying you shouldn’t defend the innocent or champion what’s right. I’m not suggesting that you kiss the rainbow or bare your assets on World Naked Bike Ride Day or smoke pot with the Pope. But the world’s gonna go as the world’s gonna go. It’s written in the Book. (You really should read it some time.) So slam your pampered knees to the floor and get your humble on. Stop reacting and start extracting. Believe it or not, some folks out there will actually listen. Yes, the world will still hate you—but finally for the right reason.
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