Commonplace Book #143

For every story that makes the news headlines, there are a million others. Again and again Jesus’s followers find that when they are weak, then they are strong; that the monsters that loom so large and that can indeed do serious damage from time to time are hollow inside. The idolatry and sin that gave them their energy and puffed them up with pride has been cut off at the root with the forgiveness of sins. As became apparent with the fall of Eastern European Communism, many societies had been in the grip of what had seemed massive, powerful, invincible forces. But once their bluff was called, the collapsed like a bunch of pricked balloons. There is, no doubt, a certain pragmatic wisdom in the advice that one should not ‘poke the dragon.’ But in the Bible the dragons have already been conquered, and even though they may lash their tails angrily, they are in fact a defeated, mangy old bunch.

Believing this and living on this basis can be exhilarating as well as dangerous. Part of the skill lies in discernment, in knowing which dragons to challenge, when, and on what grounds. But when there are forces at work in  our world dealing in death and destruction, propagating dangerous ideologies without regard for those in the way, or forces that squash the poor to the ground and allow a tiny number to heap up wealth and power, we know we are dealing with Pharaoh once more. Idols are being worshipped, and they are demanding human sacrifices. But we know that on the cross the ultimate Pharaoh was defeated. And so we go to our work, not indeed with some kind of slogan-driven social agenda to keep the chattering classes happy, nor with the arrogance that expects to “build the kingdom” by our own efforts, but in prayer and faith, with the sacramental ministry and prayer of the church around and behind us and with the knowledge that the victory won on the cross will one day have its full effect. We expect to suffer, but we know already that we are victorious.

N.T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, 377-378.