March 2018

by Cindy Beaver

God's People and the Seduction of Empire:  Hearing God's Call in the Modern Age / Graham Turner

After taking Crossways® several years ago, I started doing a lot of independent Bible study. Last year I decided to go through the book of Revelation and read multiple commentaries to help me understand it more deeply. The commentaries included: Revelation and the End of All Things by Craig Koester, Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation by Bruce M. Metzger, Revelation for Everyone by N.T. Wright, and Come, Lord Jesus: A Study of Revelation by Mark Braaten. (Side note: I'd highly recommend this process to anyone studying Revelation.)

One of the big messages that resonates throughout all of Revelation is Christ's call to resist the lure of Empire which leads to destruction and damnation. We are told do not conform to this world, do not value things that are perishable; conquer Empire by living the alternative lifestyle God has wanted true humanity to live since the dawn of time.

I started thinking about how Empire is represented in today's world. It's one thing to recognize the ways of Empire in how the Roman Empire operated with its Pax Romana enforced by brutality, and how the prevalent Emperor Cult required everyone to worship Caesar, simply to fit in with society. But what does Empire look like today?

God's People and the Seduction of Empire: Hearing God's Call in the Modern Age is insightful. Turner describes the behaviors of Empire: power, domination, division, exploitation, control, jealousy and angst. He contrasts them with the qualities God expects of His followers: living in community, being kind and self-giving, expressing joy and gratitude to God, sharing our talents and resources, demonstrating social justice by including everyone. Turner takes his reader on a journey through the Old and New Testaments, pointing out examples of how God has acted throughout history to help His chosen people walk down the path He desires for them.

Empire can look pretty on the surface, but it does not lead to happiness nor satisfaction, it just leaves us feeling empty and craving more. There's a car commercial that exemplifies Empire. Sports trophies are animated and talk about "more is better," and "our quest for better never ends." We'll never be satisfied if we live the ways of Empire. What a sad testimony. Why can’t we be satisfied with what we have, and be happy for others who have been given the opportunity to manage substantial resources? Why don’t we share what we have with others who are less fortunate than us?

The ways of Empire are deeply embedded in our culture and thus in our hopes for the future. We are beset at every turn by marketing ads that attempt to convince us that "buying this one thing" will make all the difference. I know that this does not work. Only by living God's Way can we find the bread that satisfies and the living water that quenches our thirst forevermore. This book, like the Book of Revelation, is a good reminder of how we should choose to live and a warning on how seductive and harmful the behaviors of Empire remain to this very day.


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