“And I will appoint my two witnesses… They are ‘the two olive trees’ and the two lampstands… Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them… But after three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them…
At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.” – Revelation 11:3,4,7,11,13
There should be no doubt that the current “leader of the free world” is causing a lot of division, violence, and hatred with his current rhetoric, or lack thereof. I have no idea what resides in the heart of President Trump, but his leadership has revealed a deeply ugly side to America that will not be swept under the carpet easily. In a matter of a few months the American people, and us here in Europe, have become completely desensitized to his extremism, grown cynical of the press, and been pushed to take sides.
In the midst of all this, I can understand why the call for his removal as President has been so strong. However, he has not created divisiveness or racism or hatred or intolerance, he has just capitalised on its existence for his own monetary and political gain. Which means, it will still be there when he is gone because it was there before he got here.
Not only that, but the god of individualism that is enshrined in our culture and often worshipped by our churches has convinced us that the most efficient way to end evil is to remove the individuals at the top of and behind it. Our nations bomb villages to kill a terrorist leader, and burn cities to protest a democratic one. This is both naive and dangerous, because like all false gods, following its guidance only ever creates more brokenness and leaves a trail of death.
First century Christians within the Roman Empire faced a far darker world leader that burned them at the stake, refused them the ability to buy or sell goods, and hunted them down at every given opportunity. If our individualistic approach to the world is right, it would make sense for the apostle John to call these early Christians to arms, or at least to peaceful protest, to end evil by removing this leader. But John, and the God who gave him his Revelation, knew there was, and still is, a better way.
The way of Jesus. The way of laying down your life to lift up others. The way of being a witness to God’s good news in the midst of horrific suffering. The way of resurrection. Revelation chapter 11 is very clear that the witness, death, and resurrection of the church is the only way hearts will be changed, repentance will flourish, and mankind will give glory to God again (taken of course in the context of Jesus’ death & resurrection and the first 6 trumpets that reveal all the things powerless to change the human heart and lead us to repent in chapters 8 & 9).
There have been moments in these last few months as I have watched the news tell me story after story of greed, injustice, death and hatred that I have felt an intense anger raging within me. Maybe you have too. I hope, in some ways, that you have. My prayer is that we will not be fools and think the story of our time can be changed by toppling leaders in deserts or in white houses. Our story changes when we accept our responsibility to lay down our lives. Our story changes when we stop taking our salvation for granted, as if we have it because God wanted to save us, instead of because God wanted to use us to save everyone else. Our story changes when we speak hope and good news in the midst of that suffering, when we bear witness. Our story changes when we realise their story is our story. Our story changes when sacrifice leads to death, and God interrupts our death to bring us resurrection – and resurrection changes everything.