A t-shirt I saw in the mall read, on the front, “Fool for Christ,” while on the back it asked “Whose Fool are You?” And that’s the question Revelation places before us too. As Bob Dylan sang, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody. It may be the devil or it may be the Lord. But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” Whose fool? Who do we serve?
These prefaces to ch.14 and 15 offer a chance for us another way to stand back and take a look at who we are and need to be to enact faithful resistance to beastly orderings of life that foster injustice and oppression of the haves over the have-nots. We can hold these two passages up as a mirror to reflect on where we are in our growth as “resistical” believers.
Revelation 14:1-5 and 15:1-4
1. Resistical believers know who they are. They have God’s name and the Lamb’s name written on their foreheads (14:1). This sign of ownership defines who we are in Christ. This is the sign of baptism.
2. They know what they are to be about. They are “redeemed . . . as first fruits” for God (14:4). To be the change they want to be is to live out of the reality of the change God has made them. Integrity flows out identity. So it is here. And who we are, “first fruits,” is a demonstration of the new reality, new creation, resistance by positive presentation, even if the result is negative for them. This demonstration is the destiny of the world in Christ. We prefigure where and the way the world is going.
3. They refuse intimacy with the Beast and his way. They have not “defiled themselves with women” (14:4). This is symbolical not sexist. “They” are both men and women and the imagery here suggests those engaged in active military engagement with the enemy who do not allow the comforts and conveniences of “home” to divert their attention or intention from the struggle at hand.
4. They want to be like the Lamb. Resistical Christians tell the truth and are authentic (“blameless”).
(often attributed to George Orwell though not found among his works)
5. They are followers (14:4). Too often the church buys into the myth of the “great leader” and we long for the Man or Woman who will lead us to the promised land. But in the church it’s followers who are needed. One leads, the risen One, the rest follow. Followership rather than leadership is the coin of the realm in the church.
6. They conquer the beast (15:2). Conquer, conquer, conquer. But many of these folks died! How conquer? Because like the One they follow they learned that with God things are not what they see. Winning is losing. Death leads to life. These folks died for the truth from which they believed came life. And it did! And here they are in heaven before the throne of God – victorious!
7. They sing a new song. Remember Brueggemann’s “dangerous songs” here. A new song, the song of Moses and of the Lamb. The two great redemption hymns performed after the Exodus and the Resurrection. The former now in light of the latter, greater exodus. Both are finally about God’s great intention for both Israel and the world – to worship him (15:4). Exodus from Egypt freed the people to worship God on Mt. Sinai as a prelude or prefiguring of the world coming to worship God after Jesus’ resurrection. In a broken and dangerously fragmented world to proclaim and live a unifying way of life can be a dangerous thing. And was for many of these folks and other through the centuries.
8. These people sing the Lamb’s new song standing on the sea. The sea was a haunt of evil and abode of sea monsters. Resistical believers perform their ministry in the real world of trouble and distress. No isolated, armchair witnesses here! Rather, they are bold to brave the truth of their witness in trust that Jesus Christ is indeed the “faithful witness” we follow.
These are the kinds of “Fools in Christ” we are, and must become, to resist the imperial overreach that in our day bears the name Trump. May it please God that we become more and more “foolish” every day!