The Empire’s New Clothes

skyline-600001_640I’m no prophet but it doesn’t take one to know we’re witnessing a cataclysmic shift in culture.

Terrorists and hostile governments target Christians for regulation, oppression, harassment, arrest, persecution, torture, imprisonment, and death in countries around the world. Anti-Christian rhetoric fuels hateful sentiment here on our own shores. The American church, divinely appointed to love, to serve, to represent Christ stateside wrestles to determine the response that is both loving to our enemies, engaging with the uninformed, and still protective of the most vulnerable of our sheep.

This calls for truth telling both pure and guileless. This is a job for children.

In the famous fairy tale, an emperor rules who loves new clothes. His image is more important to him than his armies, his people, or his lands. What he cares about is what others think of him and how he appears to all.

We, too, are a people obsessed with image. A country of selfie-takers, spin-doctors, makeover channels, image advisors, branding firms, and logo creators all keenly aware of first impressions, photo ops, and curb appeal. Like the emperor, we dwell in an empire whose people have made themselves vulnerable to deceivers through obsessive mirror gazing, self-reflection, and poll taking.

In the story, two tricksters arrive in town and capitalize on the emperor’s vanity. They tell everyone they can weave cloth of amazing colors and patterns but say their clothing is unique because it’s invisible to anyone who is a simpleton or unfit to hold their office. The emperor covets this clothing because he doesn’t trust his own ability to discern his advisor’s capabilities. Self-focus will leave us blind to others that way. He orders the clothing made.

What perfect deception! These faux tailors follow the pattern of every deceiver. They cleverly inventories their target’s vulnerabilities, establish a matrix only they can see, a test that’s rigged from their side, and rely on their mark’s unwillingness to appear out of the loop, unsavvy, or uncool to rope them in to the scheme. They depend on their victim’s insecurity, fear, and desire to hold onto their station or ascend to the next to motivate them to engage in the matrix only the deceivers can see.

No emperor falls victim alone. His chief advisor visits the sewing room but when he fails to see the cloth, he fears what others will think of him so he joins the deception and pretends to see. He falls prey to his unwillingness to be exposed as a fool. The emperor sends more and more ministers of the kingdom and each trusts the matrix more than their own eyes so the deception expands to include the highest ranks in the land until finally, the emperor himself dons a suit of nothing but air.

Isn’t this the way a false kingdom spreads? The deceivers must have victims who cling to their own fears more than the truth. Willing to bury their own perceptions and bow to the matrix of the mob rather than risk shame, embarrassment, exposure, or shunning by simply stating the facts, the truths, before their eyes.

At last, when the emperor parades through the streets in regal garments that don’t exist, a child cries out, “But the emperor has nothing on at all!” And who could say that a child was not fit for his office or was a simpleton? The child had no thought to perceptions, no fear of losing his place in the kingdom, no concern that his own eyes, his own mind was unreliable. Word spreads through the bystanders like a tongues of fire – truth unleashed burned deception to the pavement in a flash.

This is what Jesus meant when He told the disciples ““Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3-4 They had asked Him who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven and in turn, He told them that their question was the problem.

If the church is to face the naked empire parading itself through modern culture, we must stop concerning ourselves with our own greatness. We must face squarely, in the only mirror that matters, that of God’s Word, who we are. We are sinners saved by grace, wholly redeemed through the work of Christ, entirely loved, and securely adopted into the family of God. We are children of the only king who matters and He has appointed us to serve Him here, in this time, in this place, with these people.

We cannot lose our office. It is secured with Christ.

If we’re exposed as fools, shamed, or scoffed at, what does it matter to us? We inherit the kingdom. We have everything we need for life and godliness. What others say of us, think of us, or do to us is of no enduring matter. Christ has the first and last word on our lives.

The ones we’ve been appointed to serve face a perilous destiny – far worse than parading naked through the streets. The evil one has woven a garment for them that is a death shroud disguised as fine array. If we keep our truth to ourselves, we serve no one, least of all the One who sent us.

To humble ourselves is to make a practice of remembering we are part of a larger story and as the Body of Christ, it’s not about us but about Him. Making a habit of humility reduces our vulnerability to the deceiver and increases our child factor so that we are better instruments of truth and grace when discussing the empire’s new clothes.

child-945422_640Some of us may be out of practice with this sort of humble truth telling. I recommend tomorrow, we start small. Consume truth for breakfast by opening God’s Word, glimpsing our own reflection in the mirror of its truth and adjusting our own clothing before we open our mouths to others.

But then, before we speak, let’s ask ourselves this – “Are the words about to leave my mouth designed to enhance my image with this person or to serve the listener in love?” At the very least, asking that question should slow us down, seldom a bad thing, but I suspect it will also be of great assistance in the humility department.

If we’ve learned nothing else from this presidential election it’s that people are starving for straight truth. People are weary of deception and afraid there is no other option. The empire is truly naked, like the church of Laodicea mentioned in Revelation 3:17-20

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

Jesus loves the people who live where you live. He died for them. His heart is for them and He has divinely appointed you to represent Him to them. You have nothing to lose because your life is safe with Him so take the journey, accept the adventure, humble yourself, and speak the pure, guileless truth of a child.

To God be the glory, the empire of this world has no clothes and it’s our job to notice.

The adventure is upon us . . . have you engaged in your Jesus adventure? Our faith is no fairy tale – it’s more.

Get in on the conversation

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

2 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Debra says:

    As a culture, we are amusing ourselves to death. Remember Bruce Jenner’s breaking news: “I am Woman. The story was trending all over social media, and someone posted on her Facebook page, “Good for Bruce Jenner! Not an easy thing to do. I admire the strength and courage it takes to be honest about being your authentic self! You go girl!”

    Since when did changing gender constitute being “your authentic self?” Jenner was even honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award over some truly heroic young lady, and featured on the cover of Vanity Fair. Freak shows are now beauty pageants.

    There’s a war on reality in our culture. At the rate this wicked and perverse generation in going, who’d be surprised if the next high court ruling would come down in favor of pedophilia or incest or bestiality? Indeed, people are starving for straight truth.

  2. This is the second time today I’ve read a blog on Revelation 3:20. It’s time I listen!

    God is knocking on my heart with conviction of my own selfishness. I need to let Him in and allow Him to work in my life. Thank you for a thought-provoking post, Lori.