Faith & Fandom
The Walking Dead: Reclamation Of Alexandria
I've been a reader of the Walking Dead comics for years and the whole Alexandria arc was far from my favorite, but the TV version of it made me take a second look at it. There is this whole city of people walled up, sheltered, and safe from the perils of the outside world. Whether those perils involve the dead, or the living, they go on about their lives, and outside of the unlucky runners and recruiters, many of them pretend like the world is just fine and isn't in the middle of an apocalypse. I actually thought the initial portion of the storyline there was rather boring, but when everything fell apart it truly hit me how very dangerous it is to allow ourselves to be in our own little bubble and expect things to be fruitful and thriving. I get it though. The world around you is super dangerous, undead monsters roaming the streets, violent survivors dealing with mental instability, it's the kind of environment that makes you want to hide away, but simply put, living life like that just really isn't living. If the people of Alexandria had worked together, in teams, even on an occasional basis to clear and fortify the land outside their walls, it would have been safer not just for the people in it, but for those who would eventually call that place home.
Like the people of Alexandria, as Christians, we aren't meant to be walled up, hidden or contained. We are meant for more than just survival and fighting off extinction. We are meant to push back the darkness and preserve life where we can.
That's the teaching that Jesus gives his followers in Matthew chapter 5:13-16, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
Salt in biblical times was a preservative, it kept meat fresh...ish, kept wounds from festering, and was a general cure all when it came to infection. Salt literally was one of the best forms of fighting back death and decay. Light, as it lacks explanation, is the one thing that can overcome darkness, give people sight, and bring courage in some of the most hopeless times. This is who Jesus called Christians to be, but like the people of Alexandria, often times we just go into survival mode. Instead of going out into the world to love sinners, reach the lost, and be salt and light, we fortify our churches like Alexandria, we huddle up, get comfy, and wait for the world to get better on it's own. Also much like Alexandria, we may send a couple people out on occasion looking for the lost, like pastors, missionaries, etc, but it's only small concentrated efforts of the few and completely forgoes effort by the group as a whole. The fact that little fortified community is so fitting a comparison for the church as it stands today, it shows us that our salt has indeed lost it's saltiness, and our light is hidden, and it's usually hidden under steeples or behind pews.
One of the biggest mistakes Rick made when he arrived there was thinking the people there were too far gone to change. That they were too soft, too set in their ways to learn what it takes to really fit in the new world. When he first got there he was ready to fight, to revolutionize, and get those people doing the work that needed to be done. "We know what needs to be done and we do it. We're the ones who live. You, you just sit and plan and hesitate. You pretend like you know when you don't. You wish things weren't what they are. Well, you want to live? You want this place to stay standing? Your way of doing things is done. Things don't get better because you - you want them to. Starting right now, we have to live in the real world."
But after a short period of time there he had already given up on those people becoming who they needed to be, and we see this in how he instructed Glenn and Michone; "No hiding, no waiting. You keep going. Thing is, they aren't all gonna make it. You try to save them, you try, but if they can't keep up, you keep going. You have to. You make sure you get back." He saw the task of getting people to be who they should be as too difficult, and settled on getting the ones he knew were already doing the work to survive. I'm not cracking on Rick. Please understand I've been in this same position time and again in ministry. With churches, ministries, and organizations that think I'm going to come in and start a fire. That I'm going to get the people who aren't doing their part to rise up, abandon their apathy, stop treating church like it's a time to sit around and listen to an orator, and realize that the Church is supposed to go out into the world and bring Jesus to the lost, not waiting for the lost to haphazardly stumble into our congregation. But the more I fight the uphill battle, the more I hit resistance and feel like I'm doing everything on my own.
When I feel this way my zeal, and my drive fades out. I'm left like burnt out Rick, halfway to becoming a real Alexandrian. I had long chalked it up to the concept of wine skins. When I was switching ministries about 6 years ago, I visited a church that was thinking of hiring me and the guy spoke on wineskins and it really hit me. So these verses in Matthew 9:17 "Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” I basically got to the point of viewing older, apathetic,
or unmotivated people in the church as old wineskins, and used it as an excuse to stop trying to help those people move, grow, or be who God called them to be. I've since wised up, and see that yes, some people are old wineskins, but Jesus makes all things new, and can change lives far beyond my ability.
We have to get to the point that we go beyond the walls to find those that aren't within them. We truly have to venture out beyond our safe zone to find those who were missing. One of the most heartbreaking things to me is when Maggie went out to find Glenn, but then turned around and went home. I don't blame Maggie, but it broke my heart. If they wouldn't even make it into the world to save Glenn, who would they go for? We have to return to the place where we realize that Jesus' mission was to as he put it "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” - Luke 19:10. It wasn't just Jesus' mission though it's our mission too. Look at what He prayed for us in John 17:15-18 " My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world." Jesus makes it very clear, he doesn't want us out of the world, but He wants us to go into the world the same way He did. We can never do that hiding behind our walls.
When everything went to poop in the mid-season premiere of season 6 "No Way Out," the people had only themselves to blame, they spent so much time hiding inside that they hadn't noticed that the world right outside their safe zone was crumbling. Can I just mention the beautiful symbolism that what brought their walls crashing down and flooding their world with the undead was the decrepit steeple of a church building collapsing? It's an ominous and foreshadowing fact that the neglected and dying church brought about their impending doom. If we don't get out from behind our walls and get out into our worlds, it looks like the same story will be true for us. We don't bother to leave the comforts of our safe little Christian bubbles until someone bursts it, then we complain about how bad the world is and how much it needs saving. In one of the only moments Father Gabriel wasn't a tool, he said this, "We've been praying...together. Praying that God will save our town. Well, our prayers have been answered. God will save our Alexandria...because God has given us the courage to save it ourselves." When they finally got out of their comfort zone, rolled up their sleeves and did the work they should have done in the first place, they were able to save their town, rebuild, make it stronger, and have a much better quality of life...until the next episode. But the same is true for us. It's time for us to reclaim our Alexandria, and beyond. We have to move out from beyond our comfortable walls, and go into the world the way we were commanded to.
"I was wrong. I thought after living behind these walls for so long that...maybe they couldn't learn. But today...I saw what they could do, what 'we' could do, if we work together. We'll rebuild the walls. We'll expand the walls. There will be more. There's gotta be more. Everything Deanna was talking about...is possible. It's all possible. I see that now. When I was out there...with them...when it was over...when I knew we had this place again...I had this feeling. It took me a while to remember what it was... because I haven't felt it since before I woke up in that hospital bed. I want to show you the new world.." - Rick Grimes