Updated: Feb 18, 2020
In their chapter, “A Collision of Two Empires” Sweet and Viola show that the church is alarmingly prone to confuse the kingdom of God with the kingdom of this world. The picture at the left, however, is neither Sweet nor Viola, but Reinhold Niebuhr. In that regard, they quote Niebuhr:
Christ is crucified by the priests of the purest religion of his day and by the minions of the justest, the Roman Law. The fanaticism of the priests is the fanaticism of all good men, who do not know that they are not as good as they esteem themselves. The complacence of Pilate represents the moral mediocrity of all communities, however just.
Perhaps I’m writing this post to provide some balance to the previous one. I still think that post is right as far as it goes; but even moral clarity is a long way from actual righteousness. Many people assume that if they had been in Joe Paterno’s position, they would have done the right thing. Maybe. But they weren’t in his position. They don’t really know what they would have done. And Niebuhr is devastatingly correct when he exposes the, “…fanaticism of all good men, who do not know that they are not as good as they esteem themselves.” That’s why we all need a Savior who is truly righteous, and who has delivered us from our unrighteousness–offensive as that may be.