When Jesus rose from the dead, he defeated spiritual rulers and authorities. He made an open spectacle of them, triumphing over them in the cross. Those who follow Jesus are also victorious. They share in the triumph of their Master.
But does that mean that disciples of Jesus serving globally should be “triumphalistic?”
“the attitude or belief that a particular doctrine, religion, culture, or social system is superior to and should triumph over all others.”
The term is used in a contemptuous or derogatory sense. I would imagine that most groups would not like to identify themselves as such or have others identify them this way.
Though I don’t believe in “Triumphalism” in missions, I do believe we serve the “Triumphant One.”
I believe in the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. I believe in the superiority of the Gospel. Jesus is triumphant. There no one or nothing higher.
But my question is,
“what is the line between identifying with the unique superiority and triumph of Jesus and ministering from an attitude that says our brand, approach, or way of doing things is superior to all others?”
Are we bringing unreached people groups to this Jesus or to our particular brand of “Christendom?” This question may seem simple but it requires a lot of deeper reflection.
Jesus Is Triumphant
Colossians 2:15 says,
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Who were the powers and authorities? The Apostle Paul gives us the answer when he explains who our “battle” is really against in Ephesians 6:12
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Our battle is spiritual, so therefore any “triumph” we have is only in the spiritual realm
- 2 Cor 2:14
- Eph 3:10
- Col 2:10
- Phil 2:10
Each of these scriptures shows us how Jesus is triumphant and as his disciples we share in his victory.
But as human beings, we must be constantly reminded that our victory is not over a particular people or culture.
None of us are completely free from our own cultural blindness, therefore we must come into new cultures and people groups, not from a place of superiority, but from a place of humility and meekness.
As with many subjects in the Bible, I believe there is a tension that exists between triumph and humility, between confidence and meekness.
“Manner of Spirit”
We can see in the disciples of Jesus a misunderstanding of the nature of the victory and reign of Jesus? They wanted to call down fire from heaven and consume people.
Jesus rebuked them saying, “You know not what manner of spirit you are of.” (Luke 9:54-55)
So, what manner of spirit should we be?
I think we see if portrayed in the picture of “the lamb.”
- Jesus is called the “lamb of God.” (John 1:29)
- As a lamb he had no teeth, fangs, or claws.
- He is “meek and lowly in heart.” (Matt 11:29)
- The Apostles ( the 1st missionaries) are called “the apostles of the Lamb.” (Rev 21:14)
- Jesus calls us to follow Him in that same spirit. (Matt 16:24)
- “Without Him we can do nothing.” (John 15:4-6)
There is a humble, meek, dependence on the Lord Jesus that should characterize every one who serves Him, especially those who cross cultures for His name’s sake.
A great quote from our own context in Thailand comes from Dr. Nantachai Mejudhon’s doctoral thesis, “Meekness: A New Approach to Christian Witness to the Thai People.” He says,
“A meek approach is always equated with a sympathetic understanding of Buddhists, and with a senstivity to the cultural concepts of those to whom the Christians minister.
Christians should seek to serve humbly and lovingly, should be able to show meekness in their lifestyles supported by the dynamic testimonies of their personal relationships with Jesus Christ.
Thai meekness means that Christians shuld seek to relate to Buddhists as neighbors and equals, regarding their beliefs as worthy of serious consideration.
When missionaries and Thai Christians allow the Holy Spirit to convict Buddhists, a number of aggressive words and deeds will be absent from their Christian witness.”
Meekness is not weakness. It is strength under control.
It is not bumbling around, helpless, and not knowing what to do. It is the humility to ask God for wisdom who promises to give liberally and not withhold it. (James 1:5-6)
Meekness is not passive. It is actively seeking the heart of God by the Spirit who promises us “you will hear a voice behind you saying, this is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)
I believe that the tension between walking in the victory and triumph of Jesus and maintaining a meek and humble spirit are both complementary.
We are called to:
- be “fervent” in prayer. (James 5:16)
- “not lacking in zeal.” (Rom 12:11)
- to have faith that can move mountains. (Mark 11:23-24)
- to display the manifold wisdom of God to principalities and powers. (Eph 3:10-11)
- to walk in the spiritual triumph of Jesus as we spread the aroma of His fragrance in every place. (2 Cor 2:14)
- Until all of his enemies are placed under his feet (Hebrews 10:12-13)
We must hold fast to our belief that Jesus is THE way, the truth, and the life for ALL peoples. (John 14:6)
All of this, while recognizing our own cultural world views and baggage and how utterly dependent we are on Jesus for his grace and wisdom to engage in his global Commission. (Matt 28:18-20)
What do you think?