The 4th of July brings to light the significance of what is perhaps my favorite parable (Luke 19). To understand the connection, let’s remember exactly how different this day would have been back in 1776.
As the ink was drying on the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War was just around the corner. Whether willingly or reluctantly, every citizen was thrust onto the horns of a dilemma:
- Take up arms as citizens of the new nation and simultaneously condemn themselves as traitors against Britain.
- Take up arms on behalf of the “homeland” (Britain) and fight to quell the rebellion. (Be traitors against America.)
- Play it safe by avoiding allegiance to either country in order to await the end result of the war before deciding. (Be condemned as cowards regardless of who won the war.)
Undoubtedly, there were many reluctant decision makers in the days following July 4, 1776. Many people were going about their lives, doing their work, paying their taxes, and raising their families. Most weren’t politicians. Most weren’t soldiers. They were simply swept into something bigger than themselves. Many were forced to make a decision that they didn’t want to have to make.
This is exactly the scenario that Jesus describes in Luke 19 to help us understand the circumstances in which we’re living. He has declared (and revealed) himself to be the King over all creation – the heavens and the earth. The kingdom of God has come. However, his reign has not yet been fully implemented. And in the meantime, conflict is underway because many people are living in opposition to the King’s reign.
How we emerge into God’s story is determined by how we respond to Jesus’ claim of lordship in the meantime. We find ourselves (along with every person we’ll ever know) on the same horns of a dilemma faced by the first citizens of America back on July 4, 1776:
- We can be faithful to the King and live in faith and anticipation that he will indeed reign.
- We can be appalled that Jesus’ claims lordship over us and live in opposition to him.
- We can try to play it safe and simply go about our own business trying to offend neither Jesus nor his opponents.
The decision is inevitable. Our circumstances have been thrust upon us whether we like it or not. The only question is how we will respond and who we will be in God’s story.
One day, the decision will seem as obvious as it does for us today looking back on America’s Independence Day. Jesus will reign over all creation. Everything will be restored and renewed according to God’s eternal plans for his creation. God’s people will live eternally and immortally, reigning over creation and governing it according to God’s design. We will eternally celebrate what God has done and remember every step we took along the way to be faithful to him, living in response to his goodness and in anticipation of the New Creation.