Summary: The values, priorities, and expectations of the kingdoms of this world are completely at odds with the values, priorities, and expectations of the Kingdom of God. Conflict is inevitable.
During his last night with his disciples, before his arrest, Jesus concluded his teaching with these words: “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
In his Second Letter to the Corinthians, Paul needs only a few words to describe his personal experience of this trouble and this peace: “When we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.” (2 Corinthians 7:5-7)
The values, priorities, and expectations of the kingdoms of this world are completely at odds with the values, priorities, and expectations of the Kingdom of God. Conflict is inevitable. The more dramatically attention is drawn to the differences between the values, priorities, and expectations, the more dramatic the ensuing conflict…and the greater the miracle of the peace that passes understanding.
On September 20 of this year, a young man named Noah Riner had an opportunity to stand before a group of his peers and speak. He could have chosen to amuse, to inspire, to flatter, to educate, or to impress. He chose, instead, to share the Good News.
Noah Riner wasn’t speaking to his youth group at church. He wasn’t speaking to the local Christian Varsity group. He wasn’t speaking at a retreat center for young adults. As elected student body president, Riner was addressing the students of Dartmouth College at the annual convocation marking the beginning of the academic year.
(I learned of Noah Riner’s address and the reaction to it from a commentary by Albert Mohler, “Division at Dartmouth—A Christian Speaks His Mind”, Friday, October 07, 2005, which can be found at http://www.albertmohler.com/commentary_read.php?cdate=2005-10-07.)
A commentator named Albert Mohler described the event this way:
"You really are special," he told the
Dartmouth class of 2009. …
"But it isn’t enough to be special," he
continued. "It isn’t enough to be talented,
to be beautiful, to be smart. Generations
of amazing students have come before you,
and have sat in your seats. Some have been
good, some have been bad. All have been
Just a few words into his convocation
address, Riner signaled that he intended
to address the incoming students with
something more than emotionalism,
congratulations, and simplistic
affirmation. He had another issue in
…Riner recited a list of Dartmouth
graduates who had ended up as examples
of deficient character. A member of the
class of 1939 became a Soviet spy, even
as a later graduate committed murder and
yet another was arrested for sexually
assaulting a fifteen-year-old student.
"These stories demonstrate that it takes
more than a Dartmouth degree to build
character," Riner asserted. …
From that point, Riner expanded his focus
to include developments such as looting in
the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and a
crisis of character that affects the entire
"We have the same flaws as the individuals
who pillaged New Orleans. Ours haven’t been
given such free reign, but they exist and
are part of us all the same."
… "Let’s be honest," Riner insisted, "the
differences are in degree."
… "Character has a lot to do with sacrifice,
laying our personal interests down for
something bigger," Riner argued. "The best
example of this is Jesus. In the Garden of
Gethsemane, just hours before His
crucifixion, Jesus prayed, ’Father, if
Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me:
nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be
done.’ He knew the right thing to do. He
knew the cost would be agonizing torture
and death. He did it anyway. That’s
Noah Riner went on. "Jesus is a good
example of character, but He’s also much
more than that. He is the solution to
flawed people like corrupt Dartmouth
alums, looters, and me." As he later
explained, "Jesus’ message of redemption
is simple. People are imperfect, and there
are consequences for our actions. He gave
His life for our sin so that we wouldn’t
have to bear the penalty of the law; so we
could see love. The problem is me; the
solution is God’s love: Jesus on the cross,
According to this commentator, “Mr. Riner’s speech was relatively short, intensely personal, and intellectually courageous.”
Not surprisingly, some members of the audience did not agree with Riner’s comments. Some were offended. Some were outraged.
Again, according to Mohler, “the response to Riner’s speech included vitriolic outrage. He was denounced, criticized, and lambasted for the content of his controversial address,” and “the cartoonist for the college’s campus newspaper, The Dartmouth, drew a comic strip depicting Riner as a crusading theocrat and Jesus as a marijuana smoker.” The vice-president of the student body resigned in protest, accusing Riner of being an “embarrassment to the organization.” A guest columnist used the phrase “fire and brimstone” to describe Riner’s address.