The Gospel and “Defund the Police”

One of the mantras conservative white Christians have decided to “debunk” so we can get back to our safety bunkers is “Defund the Police.” It really caught our attention after the murder of George Floyd.

That is all a conversation for another day, but I am reminded of that kind of attitude among people, both FOR radically reimagining a city without the police in a current form and AGAINST “defunding” and hopping back on their “blue lives matter” bandwagon, in light of my re-reading of N.T. Wright’s book, The Day the Revolution Began.

In one section Wright walks through Matthew’s vision of the Kingdom of God and mentions “police,” so I was instantly drawn to it.

“What will it look like, when Israel’s God (as opposed to any other god) becomes king? It will not be a matter of soldiers and police imposing the divine will on people by brute force. It will be through a different kind of power altogether:”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5:3-12, NIV)

This is how the kingdom of God will be launched. It is through these types of people.

This also is a perfect picture of the great sadness I have in highly volatile issues like this. On one side is a group calling out to radically imagine community good in a way that says “defund the police”… but usually it is outside the known bounds of knowing Christ or his kingdom. On the other side is a group of people who claim Christ as their Lord… and want to have police and military available to brutally enforce “the will of God.”

(Certainly, there are people within the “defund the police” movement who are believers… but that is not the driving heart of the ideal. Certainly, there are people who don’t follow Christ who want to brutally impose their will on people.)

What strikes me is at a time when the Church should be working harder to understand the rule and reign of God… we have shucked the peace of God for a warrior god.

As conservative American Christians, there is a call for a “warrior god” that will pour out his wrath on all this “sin” (which is a list we come up with)… and we miss the Kingdom of God on full display in the Gospel.

Then, others ONLY see the “angry god” and then shove aside any look at the reality the Gospel of Matthew tries to bring. They shove Christianity aside altogether.

In all of it, we are missing the revolutionary Christ who comes to rule and reign in a way none of us imagined.

The rule and reign of heaven is here and available. It is not the “sweet by and by.” It is the here and now. And it comes without brute force. It comes through the meek and the weak who are full of the Spirit and have a vision of the peace of God in their sights.

To conservative Christians with a view of an angry God I would say, “WAKE UP!”

To others who truly have a vision that is good I would say, “PLEASE look again at the Kingdom of God! Come! Let us taste and see!” Without that Kingdom, we will only devolve into other forms of brute force to impose what WE think is “good.” That is the nature of the history of civilizations.

Christ has come. His rule is here. Please… all of us… let us reconsider this Kingdom, this King, and what “power” is all about in HIS vision.

Let us taste and see.

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