Teaching Acts in Prison: Part 6, The Political Paradox of the Kingdom

Now, as the kingdom of God begins rolling through the Roman Empire, reclaiming contested territory from the devil, something quite perplexing and paradoxical happens.

In this post and the next, I'm borrowing here from C. Kavin Rowe's book World Upside Down: Reading Acts in the Graeco-Roman Age, a book I reviewed back in 2013.

The political paradox at the heart of Acts is this. On the one hand, toward the end of Acts, Paul is repeatedly dragged before civic and Roman authorities and charged with political subversion and disturbing the peace. And in every instance, the civic and Roman authorities can find nothing wrong with Paul. The message seems to be clear: In the eyes of Rome, this "Jesus is Lord" business is an intramural theological squabble among the Jews that poses no political threat to Rome. Paul's message about Jesus' resurrection is deemed to be politically innocuous. 

And yet, on the other hand, Luke clearly shows in the book of Acts how city after city was thrown into turmoil as the kingdom advanced. The kingdom advances into contested territory and riot after riot breaks out. Clearly, the proclamation that "Jesus is Lord" is far from being politically innocuous.

And that's the political paradox of the kingdom. One the one hand, Rome could find nothing politically subversive about the kingdom. And yet, the kingdom turned the Roman world upside down, eventually even replacing it. How to make sense of that?

We make sense of it, I shared with the men in the prison Bible study, by paying attention to how, exactly, the kingdom invaded and disrupted the contested space. To borrow from the last post, what exactly do we mean by "the great campaign of sabotage" as it plays out in the book of Acts? What is the nature, character, and shape of this sabotage?

We'll turn to that issue in the next post.

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