When I blog, I actually try to come up with a snazzy headline. It doesn’t work, but I try.
I know that when the Twitter feed or Facebook post pops up, most people only take in the headline. I get “likes” on some posts about three seconds after it hits Facebook sometimes, so I know they didn’t read the whole post.
Sizzle sells. We have an addiction to the sensual. Not just sexual, but sensual. It attracts attention.
That is NOT the Kingdom of God. Our problem is we’re trying to make it the Kingdom of God. We create “headlines.” We make great church names. Put up great marketing slogans. Give a nice splashy appearance on the website, then in our buildings. Sizzle sells.
And that is NOT the Kingdom of God. Believe it or not, there are weightier matters. When we train ourselves to take up those matters, we will find the Kingdom. We will find Kingdom life. As a pastor, I will do better if I can equip people to pay attention to weightier matters than try and attract them with sizzle.
N.T. Wright’s major point in Surprised by Hope is to understand the weightier matters of the Kingdom so we’re not just obsessed with where we go when we die. There’s so much to do here. We are in training for Kingdom matters now.
The first huge building block for him is justice. He defines it as “the intention of God, expressed from Genesis to Revelation, to set the whole world right — a plan gloriouslyl fulfilled in Jesus Christ, supremely in his resurrection (following his victory over the powers of evil and death on the cross), and now to be implemented in the world.”
The problem here is obvious. It doesn’t sizzle. We try to make it sizzle from time to time… but overall, justice just doesn’t “pop.”
We can make it sizzle a little bit by using one narrow definition or another. We can talk about “justice” in reference to keeping the law. Conservatives will hop on board. Just mention illegal immigration and before long the word “justice” will appear. Liberals will then hop on board and talk about “justice” for the illegals. It will sizzle in the headlines. And then… nothing happens.
When we’ve truly been captured by the power of the resurrected Christ, our own tune changes. And it must change. It won’t make headlines. It won’t sizzle all the time. But it will matter. Our call, as Paul would say, is to be steadfast and immovable in doing the work of the Lord because our labor is not in vain.
So, Wright tackles a huge issue in matters of justice when he gives an illustration: economic imbalance in the world. Now, that headline will sizzle. By try and solve it. Good luck.
It will work for an election cycle as sizzle. Then… nothing. Unless you are truly committed to the Kingdom. Two hundred years ago William Wilberforce in England caught this sense of justice when it came to slavery. It took him a lifetime of legislative will power to get Britain to outlaw the slave trade.
And that is what justice will call us to as believers. It may take a lifetime. It may go beyond our lifetime.
It’s more than a bike ride or a golf tournament for a cause. It is a plodding on because you know this needs to be “righted” in this off balance world. You stay at the matter. The Spirit empowers. The Spirit emboldens. The Spirit won’t relent.
There are times you will have a sense of justice in a matter and you will bore the pants off of those who are still listening. N. T. Wright has made it his mantra. He sees it as the number one issue in the world. So, he stays at the subject in his writing and his teaching. He will talk with anyone who will listen about economic imbalance.
Then, he gives a fabulous line:
“Sex matters enormously, but global justice matters far, far more.”
I put that one line on my Facebook status, and it has, obviously, drawn attention. Sex really captures peoples attention. Justice… not so much. Sex sells. It sells in this world, especially in the West. Global justice… we just don’t care too much about how little a worker in Thailand makes. We don’t care too much about a region called Darfur, unless, of course, it threatens oil supplies and I’m paying more at the gas pump. Then, I yell about gas prices. I don’t care about Darfur and its people. I care about my gas prices.
There are things we just don’t to take up our attention. And it threatens the world!
The call of the Kingdom is to get past the sizzle. It’s to get to the weightier matters of God’s intention.