Political futures seem more volatile than ever before. Brexit dominates politics here but not so much in Australia which is about to head into a general election in May, while in the USA politics is coming to terms with the mid term elections in last November. The political pollsters are not predicting as accurately now as in the past. The unintended or ‘out of left field’ consequences seem to be happening more and more. There is a general sense of instability and apprehension about the future whether that is political or environmental or social. I recently had a conversation about ‘things’ (a bit of everything) in which we found ourselves wondering whether in a few years Ireland was reunified, Scotland was independent, and England and Wales were scratching their heads about what to call themselves. The fanciful is at least getting a hearing.
In the 4th Century BC it is believed that Diogenes the Cynic coined a term that was fanciful. In a world of city states, he described himself as a ‘cosmopolitan’ – putting together ‘kosmos’ (the universe) and ‘politês’ (a free adult male citizen of a ‘polis’ – a city) and creating a word generally understood to mean ‘citizen of the world’. Diogenes was a challenge to the city state and yet he would argue – and did – that he was supportive of where he lived.
The early Christians had to come to terms with the fact that while they were still Jews and Gentiles, as followers of Jesus that demarcation was being redefined in a world that would not have understood. At the same time, they were understanding Jesus as not just a Messiah – his resurrection meant that he was Lord – and as both God and human, someone to follow who walked with them in their localities and homes and yet created the universe.
The Jesus on the cross could not be conceived as the Creator of everything and yet John wrote: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:1-3 ESV)
That bloodied man was not seen as the Cosmic Christ and yet Paul wrote: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16,17 ESV)
The followers of Jesus came to see that they were to grow where they were planted – their family, nationality, time, geography, circumstances, occupation were not unimportant – but they were not defining of their identity. The circumstances of our lives are opportunities to serve but our allegiance is not firstly here but always to Jesus. Fanciful – even dangerous – says the world which might fear ‘disloyalty’.
We might have to guess about aspects of the future – every generation does. But it is an intriguing question ‘What unintended consequences might there be as we follow Jesus here and now?’. GS