The lens through which many Christians come to interpret the life of Jesus is formed more by American systems of thought than any other. It’s subtle and usually drenches us with a slow drip.
We fall into the trap of a subconscious effort to retrofit Jesus into an already defined understanding of what is true, what is called “good” and described as “beautiful.” We call it “right” or “left”, “conservative” or “liberal” or “progressive.” It’s the American logic of distinction. You hear it when the Christian reacts to the language of “social justice.” You hear it when the Christian throws out accusations like cultural Marxism.
I can appreciate all the confusion. Jesus doesn’t uphold his kingdom by our American logic. He doesn’t attempt to accommodate our preferences, modern day politics or our notions of patriotism. He doesn’t enter into the transcendent boots-on-the-ground gospel-logic through secular understandings of morality sprinkled with religion. Jesus works from a different logic that creates an all together different politic constructed from a different understanding of truth that determines what is called good and described as beautiful.
“Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” he says. “Love your enemies and bless them,” he teaches. “Give to any who ask without expectation of return,” he demands. “The world will know you’re mine by how you love one another,” he whispers. “You should have been concerned with the weightier matters of the law: justice…” he preaches. Jesus extended the narrow boundaries of hospitality created by his society’s “right” and “left,” “conservative” and “liberal.” It’s why he welcomed liars, thieves, home wreckers, and those who didn’t believe; the abandoned and abused, the lonely and confused; the widow, the child, the forgotten and left-out.
The politically savvy and religious elite didn’t understand him. They were too concerned with operating from a logic that aligned with their own versions of “right” and “left.” They even called it Scriptural. And they missed the Christ.
Looking around it seems some things haven’t changed. But it can. I hope it will because this conversation is getting really tired.
It’s Resilience Week for Virginia. And collaborative community I’m involved with, Greater Williamsburg Trauma-Informed Community Network (GWTICN), has organized some incredible events around the theme of trauma and resilience. GWTICN has also connected with local organizations hosting events for the week. Find some that spark your interest and get involved.
I’m one of those pastors who gets labelled a bunch of stuff, even by those I love. I’m told I’m too political, come off ‘edgy’ and ‘ social justice-y,’ etc. Whatever I may seem to be, I can tell you what I am not. I am not a pastor who believes the Scriptures ought to be tossed around just to win arguments or make myself feel better about what I want to believe (even though I would like to treat them that way). I can tell you what I am. I am a pastor who believes that if you are going to make such claims, about anyone, then let Jesus and the Scriptures have a voice in that conversation.
So I want to say this for posterity’s sake: to my bros and sis,’ let’s read the Scriptures and pay close attention to what they testify about Jesus. Let’s read them beyond devotionals and proof texts here and there. Let’s sit with them. Let’s receive them. Let’s wrestle with them. And please, let’s do so in community, not just alone and in private. If we aren’t actively sitting with the Scriptures and as a community discerning the world they are inviting us to be part of in our cities and neighborhoods, then please, in the name of all that is good and holy, let’s stop talking about them.
It doesn’t matter how many times we go to Church, or how we serve the Church on Sundays, or whether or not we grew up in one. If we are not following Jesus, like actually obeying what he does and says, and discerning what this looks like together, then we are just making noise. We are fans, not followers. And chances are, we are not giving Jesus a fair shot with others because we are either domesticating him, White-washing him, Americanizing him, or spiritualizing him as if he only cares about the afterlife.
Let’s get back to Jesus as Lord and King, not just Savior. And let’s have discussions with our Bibles open.
This morning I am reminded that the mystery and wonder of the eternal God of love declares some truths that can be known and some that must simply be accepted and claimed. One of the divine mysteries that can be known, but must be accepted and claimed, is that long before you were born you existed in God’s heart and were loved. Before anyone else loved you, admired you, or believed in you, God did. God sees you with the eyes of infinite love as possessing unfathomable beauty and holding eternal value.
The voices that come from this land of broken promises, with all its fear, violence and hate, would have us believe differently. Sadly, sometimes these voices have come from pulpits that speak of God. Yet, in all this, there is something that speaks to us from depths of our inner being and stirs within us a lingering hunger for what is true, good and beautiful. That something, I believe, is the voice of the God who knows us best and loves us most. That something, I believe, is the voice of eternal Love.
Accept and claim the mystery of God’s love revealed in God the Son.