In his book The Divine Conspiracy Dallas Willard says that when people are connected with Jesus through faith, “their union with Jesus allows them now to be a part of his conspiracy to undermine the structures of evil, which continue to dominate human history, with the forces of truth, freedom, and love.” This way of putting things certainly makes the Christian enterprise sound more exciting than what we usually hear. We’re part of a conspiracy!
I wish things were that simple. Oh, the conspiracy is simple enough. The hard part is the abstractions on our side: truth, freedom and love. Each of these are good Bible words with solid theological substance behind them. But each one is also susceptible to competing understandings.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the light.” A bit earlier, combining two of these abstractions, he had said, “If you hold to my teaching then you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” We want the truth – we hunger for freedom.
Apart from the narrative of Jesus, however, each of these abstractions has been recontextualized. Truth is sometimes taken to be merely the pronouncements of science, other times taken as something highly – and merely – personal, that which I will stand for as an isolated, autonomous, authentic being.
Where many Christians have argued for “absolute truth,” many moderns have argued for an “absolute freedom.” We don’t really need the “absolute” to carry the weight so often given to the word. By “freedom” we tend to mean “I can do whatever I want!” No law, no authority or authority figure will stand in my way. I am the sole arbiter of my life.
When it comes to love, everyone is for it. Love is good, love is awesome. Love’s biblical and theological pedigree is unassailable. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart… and your neighbor as yourself,” we’re told by Jesus and the Old Testament tradition. “God so loved the world,” in fact, “God is love.” No way we can be Christians and escape love. But love has so often, of late, been reduced to sex. So much so, in fact, that we are on track to sexualize just about everything (I read last week of the protesters who want to see Bert & Ernie married on Sesame Street.)
If truth, freedom, and love are the weapons of our conspiracy, they could stand a little sharpening.