“Overcome evil with good.” Rom 12:21
I watched Crimson Tide (1995) the other night which is set amidst the escalating turmoil of what seems to be the beginning of World War III. The movie explores the tense dynamics aboard a US nuclear submarine whose commanding officers are caught up in the conflict but whose lines of communication with the outside world have been cut off. When the captain (Gene Hackman) decides to launch the sub’s nuclear missiles against the USSR even though their orders to do so are far from clear, the young first officer (Denzel Washington) is forced to stage a mutiny to stop him. It all gets very exciting for a while! Prior to the mutiny, during their many arguments about how to proceed, there comes a moment when the captain finally loses all his patience and angrily exclaims: “We are here to defend democracy, not to practice it!” It’s quite a line and one that may well sum up our western society’s foreign policy more closely than we would ever like to admit.
But I wonder if we in the church haven’t revealed a similar core value when dealing with our perceived threats? In our places of provocation doesn’t it seem that we, too, have a switch that when flicked leaves our working praxis as that of the end justifies the means?
According to the New Testament such practice is not an option for those of us who would follow Christ. For Jesus’ people there is an inescapable dynamic at play when we would stand for the Gospel. Unlike (or perhaps exactly like) democracy, we cannot defend our way of life unless we are practicing it. Orthodoxy and orthopraxis can never be separated. This means that in the mission we are called to, God’s grace can never be advocated in its absence.