We covered some rough terrain in church history earlier this week. In the crusades, we saw the church spend two centuries shedding the blood of others in order to try to gain control of the very land where Christ had shed His blood for others. That’s partly because the church of the Middle Ages was very passionate about Christ’s humanity and His history on earth in the Holy Land. It also craved for God’s reign—for heaven itself—to be made concrete and tangible within the world He had created and redeemed. But that passion and craving were misplaced. The problem was that the church forgot that, as Shelley said, that “the sword is never God’s way to extend Christ’s church.”100 The way has always been through love. The church forgot that God is the Judge of the whole earth, not us. She forgot that we are to walk in the footsteps of our Savior by loving, serving, and dying for others, even our enemies. She forgot that God is establishing His kingdom at the slow pace of a growing mustard seed, not in the bloodbath of a battle scene.
As disciples of Christ, we should all long to see “Thy will be done, thy kingdom come, in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 kjv). That longing and that prayer should shape the way we engage and interact with the world God created and is redeeming. But a look at the crusades should make us humble. We are a part of a body—the church—that has mistakenly tried to use earthly methods to impose a distorted notion of God’s kingdom around us, instead of preparing the way for God to build His kingdom among and through us. What masquerades as passion for Christ can actually be a misplaced passion for the world’s ways of doing things? Even though the crusades are long over, we aren’t any less prone to having a crusading spirit today. Take time to ask God to reveal to you the ways you have adopted the world’s ways of doing things instead of His. Pray that for the church as well.