Many must live in the Empire, that is obvious. There are no alternatives. We are told that we should pray for a blessing on the Empire and build a house. In other words - live.
It is also true that we must compromise with Empire. We are instructed to do that. We are aware from history that many from, “the Alternative”, end up being in positions of power, advising Empire, conducting Empire, being Empire supported persons. (See Joseph in Genesis, and Daniel)
The difficulty comes when the choice is made not to compromise and stand against the Empire. That, so it seems to me, is when Empire makes demands that are totally against the values and morals of the Jesus follower and, “the Alternative,” that we should be serving. It is on those occasions that we must take risks and to stand up and be counted even though we may be thrown into the fire, or to the lions. However, knowing that possibility, should we compromise.
Empire will also manipulate and have, “the Alternative,” use its power structures to achieve its ends; much as Empire does. That is a problem, because “the Alternative,” does not have the same value system, morals or ethics. The, “Alternative” should be servant thinking, not power thinking.
At the middle of the compromise, what takes place is an inability to see. The line has been crossed. “The Alternative,” then, has ceased to be, “the alternative.” Then, one starts to see what it is one might lose. And so, we have the famous phrase, “Do you not know that one man should die. If that does not happen, we will lose our nation, our privileges, our temple, our living. Now, “the Alternative,” has simply become another aspect of Empire.
Empire is extremely attractive. We are so persuaded to believe its propaganda, and we know that it has, or so it seems, looked after us. Empire also gives the impression that we cannot do without it. “It is our only source. It is the ultimate. It is the Greatest.” It will also take a position that says, “I will even promote your God.” The question there though is: Does it? Possibly, yes. However, it will always be in second place to the god of the Empire.
It is interesting to note that when the Empire for its own reasons, and in other circumstances feels it will benefit, it releases “the Alternative”. In such a case many who would say that they are part of, “the Alternative,” choose to stay. Sometimes they are even permitted to rebuild a temple for their God, one that has been destroyed.
That is an interesting one. I note that on that particular occasion in the Biblical narrative, the new temple was cheered by some. Others, however, cried because it was not as good as the one that had been destroyed a generation earlier. A friend of mine noted, nevertheless, the glory of the one that did not seem as good as the first, ended up housing greater glory. To understand that you must have eyes to see.
Another interesting thing to note about Empire, is that even when it is evident that its time is over, and it has become history, a new Empire (or Empires even) is now in the ascendency. Some hunger so hard after the past that they will still seek to recreate the old one.
Empire also will build its own imposing temples of worship. They will always seek to be bigger and better than anything anyone else has. Think about the pyramids, Rhodes, The Colosseum, maybe even St Pancras railway station or the Twin Towers.
Recently I listened to an architect being interviewed on Radio. He was the architect in charge of one of the biggest shopping centres in my country. When asked the question, “What are you trying to create?” His answer was very telling. He said, “All architects want to build Cathedrals. This is my Cathedral to our God.” Maybe he had a good understanding.
So where are we. Are we having to live in the Empire? Are we part of “the alternative”? Were we part of “the Alternative” but now, recognise that to go against the Empire we will cost us so much? And let us be honest: We like the Empire lifestyle, even though we know that it is a high cost to others.