I enjoy the game of chess. I’ve learned by watching players much better than myself, that most skilled players place a lot of importance on the strategy of selecting the best ‘first move’ to gain the advantage. This may very well be true. But for someone like myself, I don’t believe any challenge is over until the game is over. There is always an opportunity to regain a lost position or create a more strategic plan of action if time is allowable. Not until the ‘endgame’ move is the game truly over.
I find this to be true in life as well. I never advocate throwing in the towel because the challenge is too formidable. Even if my opponent appears to have the better skill, resource, strategy, or the advantage of the best first move. I have learned it’s important to keep my focus on the big picture — not only the incremental moves as I work the strategy that’s best suited for me.
I find it interesting that the account we read of Christianity’s first move is a great example. After Holy Spirit has been sent and received by the apostles of Jesus Christ we become acquainted with some very integral elements to society. Elements that have remained consistent in the development of every nation and tribe up to today on our planet. They are: a form of an organized religious system, a judicial system and a punitive system regulated by that judicial system. We begin our account in Acts 3 & 4, where we are immediately in lock-step with two additional elements – human this time. As the ones previously introduced, these are also just as integral to today’s societies.
These other elements I’m referring to are first the masses; who represent human suffering; the poor, the infirmed, the marginalized – those who exist in the shadows of the wealthy and privileged. The other element is those who represent the just and charitable. The selfless and empowered. The ones who have decided that the aforementioned elements must be identified and de-cloaked for what they truly are; perverse tools that depict human greed, lasciviousness and every degree of ignobility.
To place the characters in context we find Peter and John moving into and through the throngs of the broken people who gathered around the Beautiful Gate, which led into the Inner Courts of the powerful religious system known as Judaism. They were moving just as they always had. Practicing the familiar and traditional custom of the Third Hour of prayer for the day. The only thing out of the ordinary was now their ability to see what was once familiarized as chaos and confusion. Their surroundings now was drew them into a deeper valuation of those crying for help.
Peter himself having been a successful businessman had possibly walked past this broken, lame, immobilized forty-year old man on several occasions. But now, on this day, his gaze is locked upon him. Peter commands the man to fix his gaze upon him. A miracle ensues and launches the other elements in the narrative to act
Those who represent the hands, whips, spears, daggers, shields, helmets, breastplates, anger, strength and the oppressive force of a corrupt judicial system, maintained by vices and deeply adhered to nepotism; fidelity to a foreign master; would respond as a shark to chum in the warm waters of the Florida shoreline. Instinctively they responded as they were bred and trained to – mercilessly.
In Chapter 4 we can hear the temple guards [read corporate police] begin to direct the crowd, secure internet access, mobilize units intent to deter by lethal force any man – woman – or child, who failed to respond prematurely to the orders given. They secure the riotous men; breaking their drawings, emptying their bags upon the streets and beating them soundly as an act of deterrence to any who might consider offering aid.
Peter and John are held without being Mirandized or provided any legal representation. How they would be detained and transported to the jail was not the care of the temple guards. Their lives were already devalued through their association to a recently crucified offender of the state. His name was Jesus of Nazareth.
What Peter and John – as well as everyone else present – knew was that the curbside interrogation was for show. Everyone knew that these – Sadducees, the group known as the Sanhedrin – were more concerned with silencing their talk and communications. Their signage and tweets, their memes and blogs which buffeted against the the status of the wealthier Jews; who had entrenched themselves under the corrupted leadership of the Sadducees, could not be tolerated. As God’s Word had been meticulously obfuscated so as to manipulate the masses they had to be stopped. Silenced.
Yet, the historical account tells of thousands of men – women – and children, who struggled through the cognitive dissonance which Peter and John created by their actions and words. So much so, the masses of people became clear-eyed. They received the awareness that truth and liberty really were available for them – they accepted and became expatriates of the corrupt system of justice. They were saved from that perverse generation.
Now the punitive element must be upheld. It is the last ditch effort of the masochist. The brute force that promised pain and eventual death was invested into with all the resources of deceit and fear it had only a few months earlier boasted of when they temporarily destroyed the earthly life of Peter and John’s leader, Jesus of Nazareth.
We learn that in this first encounter with the world Jesus came to deliver and save, the message and actions of Peter and John were met with swift and effective responses from those first three elements: a rigid, self-serving religious institution, a corrupt judicial system and a punitive system that benefited from the evil the corrupted judicial policies created.
Sounds familiar? Unjust laws, vile and wicked systems designed to destroy. The pillaging of resources of others, and the offensive hardened hearts of men and women; which existed before this narrative and now played out in cities across this nation; are never going to be transformed by responding with like or even greater force.
Here’s the twist; as many times as this scenario is re-enacted in-between the covers of this Bible, the outcome’s remain the same. Also, through the fables of long lost tribes written in antiquity to the records of recently penned historians; those who wield power corruptly will surely answer for their sins against the broken, poor, marginalized and victimized. Because as Dr. James Cohn has stated firmly, Jesus is a “God of the Oppressed”.
Invariably there is grace as long as the witness of the true Church of Christ abides in the world. Empowered through Holy Spirit’s presence. Once the Church is no longer able to condemn injustices because nationalism, nepotism, greed and loyalty to foreign gods, have caused it to lose its moniker as the “pillar and ground of truth”, the ability to offer grace, as I’ve implied is no longer available.
As Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion dictates: “For every action, there is as an equal and opposite reaction”. Forcing all of our actions to remain impotent and costly in attempts to find justice and peace. But we are not without a strategy. This early event was only the beginning for the church to learn the way of Jesus.
Jesus of Nazareth revealed and displayed the only resolution possible. Not one of retribution, nor mere supra-spiritual surrendering. It was far greater and effective – totally. It was the very grace and mercy of God for His enemy and murderer. In words which still resonate in every crack and crevice of all of God’s creation: “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” The world became new again.
#notcrazyjustdone #TerenceCrutcher #thereisgrace4them2 #chessmoves
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ΑΩ ~ Reverend A. David Griffin, M.Div.