John Howard Yoder, in his book, “The Politics of Jesus” explored this issue on a deeper, sacramental level and came to a totally, even shockingly, different conclusion, that allows us to see Jesus and his early followers, and our own relationship with, and responsibilities to God,
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things seen nor unseen,
things present or future, nor height, nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation, shall be able to seperate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
(Unmasking the Powers)
Driven by events that shook Europe between 1930 and 1950
Protestant theology sought a more adequate theological understanding
of the power of evil, which had been seen breaking through the
crust of “civilized” societies.
No longer could it be taken for granted that human intelligence and
institutions can solve all our problems. Theologians began to ask
anew what their faith in Jesus Christ could say to a society in disarray.
World “Powers” such as tradition, laws, and the ordering
of the state, were created to usher in the reign of order among creatures
and were originally a divine gift, and were considered good.
They were to be used as mediators of the saving, creative purpose of God.
But, the Powers have rebelled (against God) and are now fallen.
And seek to seperate us from the love of God and others.
They fail to serve us as they should, and we find them ruling over our lives,
holding us in servitude, to their rules.
Those structures which were supposed to be our servants,
have now become our masters and our guardians.
Now these structures have absolutized themselves and demand from
the individual and society an unconditional loyalty.
These Powers cannot simply be destroyed or set aside and ignored.
Their sovereignty must be broken. This is what Jesus did,
concretely and historically, by living a genuinely free and
human existence. This life brought him to the cross. The most weighty representatives of Jewish religion and
Roman politics, acted in collusion against him.
He existed in their midst morally independent, without even fear of death.
Here we have for the first time, the first fruits of an
authentic restored humanity. Someone who is not the slave
of any power, of any law or custom, community or institution,
value or theory. Not even to save his own life, will he let
himself be made a slave of these powers. His authentic humanity
included his free acceptance of death at their hands.
He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public
examply of them, triumphing over them. (Col 2:13-15)
Christ abolished the slavery, which, as a result of sin,
lay over our existence as a menace and an accusation.
On the cross He “disarmed” the Powers, made a public
example of them and thereby triumphed over them.
It is precisely in the crucifixion that the true nature
of the Powers has come to light.
Previously they were accepted as the most basic and
ultimate realities, as the gods of this world.
Never had it been perceived, nor could it have been
perceived, that this belief was founded on deception.
Now that the true God appears on earth, as Christ,
it becomes apparent that the Powers are inimical to Him,
acting not as His instruments, but as his adversaries.
Now they are unmasked as false gods by their encounter
In the Resurrection, Christ God has challenged the Powers,
has penetrated into their territory, and has displayed
that He is stronger than they.
The cross has disarmed the Powers. The weapon from which
they heretofore derived their strength, is struck out of their
hands. Their weapon was the power of illusion, their ability
to convince us that they were the divine regents of the world,
ultimate certainty, ultimate direction, ultimate happiness
and the ultimate duty for small, dependent humanity.
Since Christ, we know that this is an illusion.
We are called to a higher destiny; we have higher orders to follow,
and we stand under a greater protector. No Powers can seperate
us from God’s love in Christ.
Unmasked, revealed in their true nature, they have lost their
mighty grip on us. The cross has disarmed them; and wherever
the Cross is preached, the unmasking and the disarming of the
Powers takes place.