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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

WHO ARE OUR LORDS AND WHAT COMPELS US TO FOLLOW THEM

Written by: on January 23, 2020

We need government. We need to work from the Kingdom of God. And we need to seek to understand what our responsibilities are and how to be Christ-like within systems we often cannot control which are designed to maximize self-centered gain. We are not mere principles of use for complex systems of our societies.

Scripture tells us that power belongs to God, and even more, steadfast love belongs to God too. People may have power and love, but this power and love is less than God and are still dependent upon God’s love and power. There are political and economic forces that seek to funnel our lives by their powerful influences in directions that we really may have no idea what way we are being forced. Yet for the Christian, The Triune God wants to lead us with his steadfast love.

Part of Polanyi’s theme in his text leads me to consider the idea of a lordship dilemma. His context was the Second World War, which faced forces that sought to destroy the systems he knew.[1] His text attempts to tackle the complexities of interrelated forces of economics and politics, to name a couple. Joseph Stiglitz wrote in reference to Polanyi, “Among his central thesis’ are the ideas that self-regulating markets never work; their deficiencies, not only in their internal workings but also in their consequences (e.g., for the poor), are so great that government intervention becomes necessary; and that the pace of change is of central importance in determining these consequences.”[2] It would make sense that this became evident given the rebuilding of a nation’s infrastructure needs multiple streams of inputs.

With wars, market fluctuations, political and economic unrest, and control of market discussions that were included in Polanyi’s work, I am reminded that we live in different yet similar luminal times.

Who is lord and what compels us to follow, is the question humankind has faced since our first parents. Jesus faced a similar question after his baptism. Later in Jesus’s ministry, we learn from John’s Gospel that Jesus taught his first disciples, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” Jesus was drawing a sharp distinction between two kingdoms. The disciples were being taught that there was a kingdom of their world which was held by Caesar at that time and another kingdom yet to be understood, which Jesus was Lord of (John 18:36). Christians are part of both kingdoms, at least temporarily. Under Caesar’s of this world, we have certain obligations that involve material things with no real love attached. Under Christ, we have other obligations that involve things eternal without neglecting the former. If Caesar demands money, give it to him—it’s only mammon. But make sure we also give God what He demands.

David wrote in Psalm 62:11-12, “Because you know, Lord, what it is that a human has done, You alone will be the source of power and love for them.” This is what compelled him to follow God as his Lord. David is seeing the character of God and that God’s love rises above the pressures of this world.

In my current position, we are looking at the similarities between rural and inner-city contexts. In a New York Times opinion piece, I found this apropos to the discussion of how outside forces regulate lives and their significant impact on decision-making processes. “But it’s also important to get real. There are powerful forces behind the relative and in some cases, the absolute economic decline of rural America — and the truth is that nobody knows how to reverse those forces. We can’t help rural America without understanding that the role it used to play in our nation is being undermined by powerful economic forces that nobody knows how to stop.”[3]

Who is lord and what compels us to follow our lords and their influences was a critical question in this text? “The outstanding discovery of recent historical and anthropological research is that man’s economy, as a rule, is submerged in his social relationships. He does not act so as to safeguard his individual interest in the possession of material goods; he acts so as to safeguard his social standing, his social claims, his social assets. He values material goods only in so far as they serve this end.”[4] Though I would like to ask Polanyi if this is a socialist point of view, I do see self-centeredness as the chief influence of being separated from God’s best. And that condition, though sought to be controlled by governments of this world, can really only be controlled by a new heart that is created by a relationship with Jesus Christ.

So, my question is who are our lords and what compels us to follow them? We seem to live on one side of a portal into eternity where significant forces seek to distract us, control our movement and reactions, and seek to bring order for societies as well.

God’s goal is that we can fully realize the abundant life we are called to live together.[5]  The complex forces seeking to distract us from another savior and lord can be quite compelling. Let us work within our systems, speak up and seek life-giving changes when possible, and work as Christ wants us to within these tensions. May pastors be cognizant of the challenges within their parishes and that has the ability to inhibit the mission to disciple.[6]

            [1] Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation (Boston: Beacon Press, location 873), Kindle Edition.

            [2] Ibid., location 101.

            [3] Paul Krugman, “Getting Real About Rural America: Nobody knows how to reverse the heartland’s decline,” New York Times, March 18, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/18/opinion/rural-america-economic-decline.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share.

            [4] Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation (Boston: Beacon Press, 48), Kindle Edition.

            [5] John 10:10.

            [6] Matthew 28:16-20.

About the Author

mm

Steve Wingate

6 responses to “WHO ARE OUR LORDS AND WHAT COMPELS US TO FOLLOW THEM”

  1. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Your post calls to mind the three uses of the Old Testament Law, particularly the 2nd (in traditional numbering) of the civil use of restraining evil. You seem to put government in a similar category if I’m reading this right.

  2. Darcy Hansen says:

    Steve,
    I appreciate how you’ve highlighted the tension we exist in in this liminal space, between the world kingdom and God’s Kingdom. You quoted, “We can’t help rural America without understanding that the role it used to play in our nation is being undermined by powerful economic forces that nobody knows how to stop.” What is the role rural America played? And what economic forces are at play that can’t be stopped? And how have those roles and forces impacted pastors, both in rural and urban areas? Are these forces the root cause of your project research?

  3. mm John McLarty says:

    I’m always struck at how Jesus clearly teaches that we cannot serve two masters- God and mammon- and yet our culture and churches seem to find it impossible to separate the two. I’ve been wrestling all week with this. Capitalism and socialism are such loaded words right now and government and economy seem to be the focus of most of our attention. I’m grateful for God’s patience with us!

  4. mm Dylan Branson says:

    Steve, I was reminded of James K.A. Smith’s book “You Are What You Love.” In it, he writes, “You are what you love because you live toward what you want” (12). When we ask the question of “Who is our Lord?” we are also inherently asking, “Who do you love?” We think back to Jesus’ redemption of Peter in the Gospel of John when Jesus asks Him repeatedly, “Peter, do you love me?” In Smith’s line of thinking, we can say, “Peter, if you love me then you will want me.”

    Today we have so many different things vying for our attention – sports, education, family, friends, work, etc. What are these things saying to us? Do we love them more than we love the One who loved us first? To echo your question, who is our lord?

  5. mm Chris Pollock says:

    Being led by the steadfast love of God. Thank you for mentioning this on this weeks blog, Steve. There can be such a struggle when it comes to finding identity within systems controlled by powers and people here. To remember whose we are. That we are here and don’t have an option but to find place somehow…who we serve is other than. God is beyond, as is our country. What are some ways that you live a life un-comprimised, a life of integrity in accordance to our King and Land? We are foreigners, perhaps a bit like refugees, or are we? Did not God create this place?

  6. mm Greg Reich says:

    Steve,

    We so easily blow by the warnings that Jesus brings to the reader in the gospel. As I think of Polanyi and Capitalism I can not help but hear the warning. ” where your treasure is there your heart is also.” We often forget that Jesus often boils things down to a heart condition.

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