When I arrive at an early morning prayer meeting in Perth CBD and there are four young women outside sleeping against the walls of the church, or when I repeatedly hear how people are working enormous working hours, or how each Friday night multitudes are drinking themselves “blotto” after work I know that inhumane structures are wreaking a terrible cost in our city. I hate constricting structures and have endured many conflicts against the rigid conformances of Church life. Last week I could agonisingly feel the hand of the Lord against me in my negative attitudes to Christian structures; even sensing a total inability to work with any team (Ruth 1:13). My distress was intensified by the knowledge that all these reactions were opposed to the restful peace of Christ’s accomplished work (John 19:30). As a self-styled “prophet of structure” I knew this conflict must be connected with wider God’s kingdom purposes in Perth. So in my own captivity like Jonah I began to call on the name of the Lord for deliverance and revelation (Jonah 2:1-10). The result is this word for the city about the inhuman structures of our time.
Structures of Glory and of Shame
Creation was perfectly constructed as a sanctuary fit for the image of God and humans were made to be lords of all the structures of the world (Gen 1:26-28). As long as humanity walked in obedience to God they were filled with a sense of majesty and dignity (Ps 8; 45:3-4). The Fall into sin changed all this; every structure of creation was subject to distortion and “futility” as a sign of divine judgement (Rom 8:20). The very form of the naked human body, with its origin in birth, its sustenance through work and its end in death became marked by shame and pain (Gen 3:7, 16-19). The world was now experienced as a de-humanising place; ““Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!”… All are from the dust, and to dust all return.” “(Eccl 1:2; 3:20). The attempted human solution to such emptiness is idolatry, the attribution of great worth to objects and images other than the true image and likeness of God (Rom 1:23). However these “gods of a lesser glory” can never restore to a humanity trapped in a corruptible body and a decaying world a sense of our original majesty. In the present day the endless materialist cycle of drivenness to produce and consume strips people of the Spirit’s testimony that their proper habitation is the eternal glory of God (John 17:24). We are left with men and women who have no idea of their true worth to God. Only God–as-a-human-being can reveal to us our true dignity; enter Jesus.
Jesus and the Structures of Shame
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). The “flesh” which Jesus became is humanity exposed to all the dysfunctional structures of a fallen world. Christ took up “mortal flesh-in the world-attacked by Satan”; flesh that is weak, temptable and useless to the purposes of God (John 6:63; Rom 8:3; Heb 4:15). In becoming man the Son of God penetrated into the root of all human ills and the dysfunctional structures that strangle the enjoyment of God for which we were created (Job 38:7; Prov 8:31). The very act of Incarnation dissolves the foundational spiritual shame that causes men and women to cringe away from the glory of God in creation and one another (Rom 1:18-23). The coming of the Christ is a revelation of the majesty and dignity which properly belong to all God’s image-bearers (2 Pet 1:16; Heb 1:3; 8:1; Rev 1:1). The key to accepting this is the cross.
It was prophesied of the death of Messiah, “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him” (Isa 53:2), and the psalmist encapsulates Jesus own experience of forsakenness; “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?…I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.” (Ps 22:1, 6; Mark 15:34). That the apple of the Father’s eye should voluntarily immerse himself in the shame of the cross for us testifies infallibly to God’s evaluation of the dignity of each human person (Heb 12:2). In Jesus’ death all the power of this world’s structures to dehumanise us have been extinguished and in the resurrection these orders have been transformed. A whole new and perfectly arranged creation is coming for us “in Christ” (Matt 19:28; 2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21).
War Against Inhumanity
The evil “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” are running our city as if it belonged to them rather than to Christ’s glory in his Church (Eph 3:10, 20). A proper Christian response is a holy war of love (Ps 68:1). The impulse to wage divine warfare arises spontaneously when I realise that the person sitting next to me on the train going to work bears the image of the immortal God, when I have a revelation that the fellow at the next office desk reflects the glory of God, when I see Jesus himself in those begging on the street, and when I hear the distress of fellow labourers I also hear the voice of the Good Shepherd of the sheep interceding on their behalf (Matt 25:40; John 10:1ff; 1 Cor 11:7;2 Cor 10:3-5; Rev 1:23). The power to resist the antichrist forces embedded in the structures of our modern workplace will come from a foundational revelation of who we are in Christ, “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). Paul’s declaration, “how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:24-27 ESV) means that the all-encompassing dignity for which God planned creation already resides in every Christian person. That power which will dissolve and transform every demonised structure at the return of Jesus issuing in a perfected new creation is in you (Eph 1:19-21; Phil 3:20-21). You are already a citizen of another city whose unveiling will sweep away every Babylonian and inhuman structure from the face of human history.
Destitute street sleepers, exhausted city workers, binge drinkers, all those without hope, their hope for transformation into a life of dignity lies in the Spirit communicating through you a different image of what it means to be human, that of Jesus (1 Tim 2:5). No other form of humanity can triumph over the powers that are overwhelming our society today. The scriptures prophesy of a day when idolaters will frenetically cast away their precious things at a revelation of the splendour of God’s majesty, this revelation is seen in the face of Christ (Isa 2:10, 19, 21; Rev 6:15-17 cf. Ps 45:3-4). Such a revelation need not await the terror of the Judgment, through our faces of loving interest and action it can cleanse others from the destructive power of inhuman structures today!
Jesus shamelessly calls us “brothers” and his Father is not ashamed to be called of those seeking a heavenly city “their God” (Heb 2:11; 11:16). Christ in us carries the majesty to transform the marketplace structures of our time (Mic 5:4-5). It was Christians who first started hospitals, brought down institutional slavery, pioneered trade unions and gave their lives for civil rights. The power of God has not diminished; it must be us who have changed. I suggest a simple prayer; “Lord Jesus, reveal to me the worth of all of those made in your image, and help me to impart your glorious humanity in every sphere of life to which you have called me, whatever the cost. Amen.”