Several months ago, I reflected on teaching about cruciformity in various settings. Some folks bristle at such talk because it sounds like passivity, resignation, surrender, or withdrawal.
I suspect this is the case because in a world dominated by violence, we can only imagine inflicting violence on others or being the objects of violence. You’re either dishing it out or taking it.
It takes a thoroughgoing conversion of the imagination to discern and foster the cruciform patterns of life to which God calls his people.
It has nothing to do with passivity or resignation, but involves serious effort and sustained reflection on Scripture to forge new thought patterns, new ways of hoping, loving, imagining, and behaving.
Cultivating communities of cruciformity requires persevering creativity to adopt radically new relational postures and corporate dynamics that embody genuine eschatologically-oriented faith and gospel hope.
In Reading Revelation Responsibly, Michael Gorman states this beautifully:
Christian resistance to empire and idolatry conforms to the pattern of Jesus Christ and of his apostles, saints, prophets (like John), and martyrs: faithful, true, courageous, just, and nonviolent. It is not passive but active, consisting of the formation of communities and individuals who pledge allegiance to God alone, who live in nonviolent love toward friends and enemies alike, who leave vengeance to God, and who, by God’s Spirit, create mini-cultures of life as alternatives to empire’s culture of death. This is a Lamb-shaped or cross-shaped (cruciform) understanding of discipleship and mission (p. 76).
Revelation calls Christians to a difficult discipleship of discernment—a non-conformist cruciform faithfulness—that may lead to marginalization or even persecution now, but ultimately to a place in God’s new heaven and new earth. Revelation calls believers to nonretaliation and nonviolence, and not to a literal war of any sort, present or future. By its very nature as resistance, faithful nonconformity is not absolute withdrawal but rather critical engagement on very different terms from those of the status quo. This is all birthed and nurtured in worship. But we need to be diligent, because . . . we in the West are now largely like the Laodiceans, and many of us need to read Revelation as such. [W]e are in very bad shape but do not know it, so conversion to true worship and discipleship will be a difficult journey (p. 79).
That lovely expression, “a difficult discipleship of discernment,” captures wonderfully the life-long communal conversion of the imagination to which God calls his people in the Book of Revelation.