Current Events Devotional Random Ponderings Systems theology

Systems, Part 6: Resistance

Be wary if you cannot tell which parts of your life are or are not submitted to Jesus Christ.

Photo by/of Luke Renoe

This is continuing a line of thought from several previous post on systems. Read part one,  part twopart threepart four, and part five here if you haven’t yet! These are more academic and less casual than my usual posts, and they are more for my own personal reflection as I sort through a lot of these things than they are for you (no offense). I hope you enjoy anyway though! 😉 -e

So if you’ve never listened to Josh Garrels before, what have you been doing with your life?

I have had one of his songs spinning on repeat for a week now, as I have come to realize that Garrels is brilliantly aware of how systems and frameworks shape the lives of everyone in the world. Specifically his song “The Resistance” is phenomenal and actually opens with the line,

I was born into a system constructed for failure
It’s a sinking ship being manned by drunken sailors. 

He then proceeds to deconstruct the world from the perspective of one on the outside of it: An objective view of the world we live in:

A pyramid scheme with it’s cogs and it’s pistons
Mechanization of men, making more and more
Live in a miserable existence
How can so few take so many victims?

And the last line of the first verse begs the question:

How do good men become part of the regime?
They don’t believe in resistance.

The thing I love about Josh Garrels, possibly more than his jaw-dropping musical ability, is his brilliant understanding of the world and of the Word. I had the chance to see him in concert several years ago, and prior to his performance (or after it…I can’t remember) he had a lecture which I barely remember. At the time, I was a part of a missions organization which was incredibly charismatic, so I just wanted “Holy Spirit pump-up sessions” rather than hard-hitting and philosophically rich lectures.

I don’t remember the entirety of Josh’s message, but I do remember him talking at length about McDonald’s and Wal-Mart and how this is so contrary to the way God designed Christians as creatives who should not be industrialized and mass-produced, but should be loud and unique and speak truth in an era of deception and blind obedience.

Looking back on it, it seemed like Garrels was going through a similar season I’m going through now: He was torn about the comfort and injustice he witnessed when he looked around and tried to make sense of it. It seemed like he hadn’t prepared for the speech, but had simply stood up and went on about what he was wrestling with at the time. Don’t get me wrong–it was fantastic, and likely the same thing that would happen if someone asked me to stand up and speak on something right now without any prep time.

Now I am beginning to understand why he was/is so passionate about the topic. And since he is exponentially wiser and better-read than I am, his solutions come from a much deeper place as well. The Resistance ends with:

Hold fast my people and sing
Through peace and through suffering
All for the joy that it brings, to be free
It’s gonna cost us everything
To follow one Lord and King
True love endures everything
To be free

For the past couple months, I have been teaching through the life of Moses in my Sunday School class and the exact magnitude of what Moses and Aaron did has come to life in ways it never has before. Moses literally went up to the head of the system (Egypt) and demanded that he let 1.2+ million people who were their workforce leave the country.

Imagine a Jew approaching Hitler and telling him to just shut down the whole Nazi thing.

Or a black slave approaching some southern legislator in the 1800’s and telling him to release all the black slaves in America and let them go free.

It simply doesn’t happen.

The person would most likely be executed or simply taken as a slave himself. It’s fascinating looking at the Moses story through this lens, then, because Moses is no longer a ‘Bible character from Sunday School,’ but the story of God’s liberation is so much crazier when you realize that Moses would have had no audience with Pharaoh if he had not been raised by his daughter as an Egyptian. He was born pretty darn near the top of the system, yet he was of the people scarping the bottom, the Hebrews.

That, in addition to the wonder-working power of God with him allowed him to stand up to the wicked regime of the Egyptians (For a refresher, the Egyptians enslaved the Israelites after Joseph had moved his people there and a ruler came to power who forgot what Joseph had done in Egypt. They were unjust rulers to them, and when the Israelites became too numerous for them, the Egyptians began killing their newborns by tossing them in the Nile River).

Put yourself in Moses’ shoes for a moment. You, a solitary man, are approaching one of the most powerful men in the world and demanding that he release his entire free labor force. All you have is a stick which sometimes turns into a snake (which isn’t that unusual apparently, since the king’s magicians can do the same thing by their dark arts) and the promise of YHWH that He has your back.

As mentioned in Part 5, the resistance is often painted as this glorious escapade, as in Star Wars or Braveheart, but in reality it’s rarely that dramatic. Moses was petrified of what he was called to to the point that his brother had to do all the speaking for him. All of it, not some of it.

I think humans crave this resistance to corrupt human systems, but the work of resisting the powerful systems is not only incredibly hard, it is not appealing or rewarding. Moses pulled his 1.2 million people out of Egypt and then died on the mountaintop before ever entering the Promised Land. Resistance today, as Christians, is wildly unpopular. It means refusing to live in sin and follow the ways of the world; the Spirit of the Air. It means recognizing that your body is purposed differently than those of the non-believers and you don’t get to use it hedonistically to extract your own pleasure from the bodies of others. When God calls us to be holy as He is holy, this isn’t a gentle or minor command. It means looking and acting diametrically opposite to the way most people act. And this comes with ridicule.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been urged to just get out there and lose my virginity.; even by people who have nothing to gain by telling me that! Atheists argue that my faith is outdated and legalistic, and my views on human sexuality is too restrictive. I am pressured from every way to accept and affirm things which are clearly outside the intended will of God as laid out in His Word. Am I a ‘resister’ like Moses?

Yes and no.

I am far from standing up to an entire nation oppressing my own people and killing their young. But I am different from them. My most recent tattoo is a small black square next to a large hollow circle. Very simple visually but bottomless in symbolic imagery. One of the meanings I ascribe to it is this notion of ‘set-apart-ness’ or the holiness demanded of believers from the world. We are divorced from the lures of the flesh and temptations of the world, and there is this forced reconciliation that happens when we live “according to our old ways,” as Paul puts it. We are to look to the world the way a small black square would to a large white circle. We have nothing in common with them.

And I think this is what resistance looks like today: It may not be a violent revolt or a political upheaval, but I marvel at the strong and quiet power of men and women who take stands simply by living lives to honor God rather than their own flesh. Lives which please Him rather than themselves. Because our culture desperately wants us to be in love with ourselves and ourselves alone, because then they can sell us more goods. Selflessness is the root of resisting this Spirit of the Air and standing against our version of Egypt. Our oppressors are not as blatant as slave driving babykillers, but they are present. We were born into a system, and continue to live in it blindly for the most part. We confess the name of Christ but are swayed by every appealing advertisement on television. Our hearts are pulled between sacrifice and consumerism. And many of us think we can have both.

Be wary if you cannot tell which parts of your life are submitted to Jesus Christ.

The way you spend your money, the way you use your body, the way you interact with friends and family, or the thoughts you allow to remain in your head. Have you taken it and made it captive to Christ? Or are you blinded by the human system in which you were raised, unable to discern between the pull of the Holy Spirit and the allure of a model selling expensive clothes for a fashion conglomerate?

James says, Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Are you polluted or are you willing to resist the system?

I think it was Leonard Ravenhill who said that something that is 99.9% pure is not pure at all. It is diluted. Purity refers to absolute, 100%, complete perfection and faultlessness.

Grow more aware of the system you are in and how it has shaped and formed you. You many think you are old enough to understand how the world works, yet it took Moses the first 40 years of his life to realize how unjust the Egyptians were to his people, and 40 more to gather up the courage to do something about it. Don’t wait till you’re 80 to resist the corruption of the system.

We may do our parts to incrementally change our very small portion of the world, but it is not until Jesus returns and institutes the new system, the Kingdom of God, that justice will truly be universal and distributed to all. So, with the very first believers we pray,

Maranatha, come swiftly, Lord Jesus. 


Isaiah sings,

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,

with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings

-Isaiah 58:5-12

Read part seven here!

4 comments on “Systems, Part 6: Resistance

  1. Pingback: Systems, Part 5: Righteous Anger – ethan renoe

  2. Hey Ethan!
    I’ve been following the “Systems” series and I have enjoyed them a lot. It’s simply awesome to see the majority of my thoughts being voiced in a post. Thank you! Now this part about Resistance showed me Moses in a new light, outside of the Sunday School/ Sermon we are accustomed to. And also taught me about what really means to be resistant to the whole world system in this day and age. Which becomes difficult with the daily and flashy distractions; but not impossible, thank God! Though, sometimes I forget I can find strength and clarity in the Holy Spirit, this post was a reminder to keep focusing on Christ, letting Him be involved in my everyday.

    So looking forward to read Part 6!
    Josh Garrels’ music where have you been all my life!! Thx for the recommendation 🙂

    Enjoy your week!

  3. Pingback: Systems, Part 7: Blind Participation – ethan renoe

  4. Pingback: Systems, Part 8: Cursed Are The Happy – ethan renoe

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: