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Jesus’ methods were not overt. They were covert, even subversive.
Rather than speaking in a clear way that may offend his hearers, Jesus spoke in parables (Matthew 13:14,15). Instead of showing up in all His God-likeness, He came to earth as a man, undercover, so to speak.
He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process (Philippians 2:6-8 MSG).
In The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene Petersen calls this strategy of Jesus subversion. He describes it as a key strategy for pastors and believers, to be faithful and fruitful forces for the Kingdom in this world.
So what I have tried to develop first of all, in myself, is the mentality of the subversive. The subversive is someone who takes on the coloration of the culture, as far as everyone else can see. If he loses the coloration he loses his effectiveness. The subversive works quietly and hiddenly, patiently. He has committed himself to Christ’s victory over culture and is willing to do those small things. No subversive ever does anything big . . . .
The acts of a subversive, he says, are,
. . . acts of sacrificial love, justice, and hope . . . . Our task is that we develop a self-identity as Christians and do these things not incidentally to our lives, but centrally. . . You have to understand that Christian subversion is nothing flashy. Subversives don’t win battles.
Petersen also talks about the people who attended his church, and the values they live by. He says we must live a different set of values. The business executive who says to him, “Good sermon, Pastor,” on the way out of church, may not realize what he really stands for.
Then I remember that I am a subversive. My long-term effectiveness depends on my not being recognized for who I really am. If he realized that I actually believe the American way of life is doomed to destruction, and that another kingdom is right now being formed in secret to take its place, he wouldn’t be at all pleased. If he knew what I was really doing and the difference it was making, he would fire me.
Petersen whole-heartedly acknowledges the importance of truth—accurate knowledge of Christian doctrine—but sees the lack of skill in the techniques of Christian subversion, as the missing element in the way the truth needs to be delivered. He suggests many are “experts in truth and dropouts on the way.”
How are we doing, as undercover agents, and subversive revolutionaries in our broken world? Do we bring counter cultural influence, in a subversive, creative way that gets the attention of those with eyes to see and ears to hear?