This was the theme of my sermon this past Sunday. You can listen to it here if you’d like. I won’t be offended if you don’t. I won’t be offended because I won’t know.
Anyway, the point of the sermon was that there are some for whom the end of the world, an apocalypse if you will, would be a welcome shift in the social order. For those who have only experienced violence, a shift in the world that created safety would be a joyful thing. For those who have only experienced injustice, a shift in the world that would create equity would be tremendous. And there are some that will never experience unless the oppressive structures that exist right now are torn down and rebuilt into something new and better.
Here’s the duplicitous aspect of empire: it creates false hope. The empire says to those who are being crushed under their heels, “join us and you can have what we have! You can be the crusher instead of the crushee”. We buy into it. We desire to share the spoils of the battle. We want to enjoy the Pax Romana. There are two problems with that approach. One is that we might never reach the heights of the best and brightest that the empire has to offer, so we’re always striving to have what they have. The second is that in order to have what the empire has, we have to create new victims. Most of us are content with this arrangement as long as we cease to be the victim.
No, the false hope of the empire won’t do. But if we can’t put our hope in the empire then we must be hoping in something that is in direct competition to the empire for influence. If the empire is violence and oppression then our only hope is that the empire must fall. Please understand that my use of the word “empire” is neither haphazard nor over specific. “Empire” is any system of oppression that controls through fear, coercion, and domination. The kingdom that Jesus declared was in direct opposition to the systems of empire in his day. He showed people a way to live that was not the way of Rome. It gave people hope and it made Rome nervous.
For people to know freedom from systems of violence and oppression, Rome must fall. Hope is no small thing. It has cataclysmic effects. It is freedom for the enslaved. It is disaster for the Romans.