The Puzzling Preferences of Jesus as King

What Jesus called truth, considered good, and described as beautiful (glorious) wasn’t palatable to the masses or manageable by the powerful. It wasn’t Jewish enough, Roman enough, religious enough, conservative enough, or liberal enough, but it was always political. I guess it’s inevitable when you’re announcing the arrival of a new kingdom.

“Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” Jesus says. “Love your enemies, pray for and bless them,” he teaches. “Give to any who ask without expectation of return, especially the ones who could never pay you back,” he says. “The world will know you’re mine by how you love one another,” he teaches.

Jesus extended the narrow boundaries created by the politically savvy and busted them wide open. He viewed others not in terms of “right” or “left,” conservative or liberal, but from a perspective that transcended all options offered by society and religion. 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 and the child, the forgotten and left-out; the rich and poor, the hated and adored; the strong and weak, the hypocrite and meek. He welcomed them all.

But not all welcomed him. Some things haven’t changed.

“Love yourself above all others,” America says. “Destroy your enemies before they destroy you, pray for them, but blow them up if you must,” It teaches. “Give to those who’ve earned it or deserve it,” It says. “The world will know we’re exceptional by how dominant we are,” It teaches.

It’s a tragic contrast if you love this country. And I love my country, but I think we put too much pressure on it to become something it was never meant to be. It’s why my heart aches. But I love King Jesus more. He says there’s only one country that can become what our hearts long for and I must choose my allegiance. Since I’ve chosen him I have to let his teachings form my life, especially when it runs contrary to society.

Sure, some of Jesus’ teachings puzzle me to no end. He’s not willing to accommodate my preferences or make his way of life more palatable. But I’ve confessed him to be Lord, pledged my allegiance to Him and have been naturalized a citizen of His kingdom. He tells me I’ve been adopted by God and welcomed into God’s household. He tells me that should change everything.

When I consider the alternatives placed in front of me, Jesus’ way of life makes much more sense. What he calls “true,” considers “good,” and describes as “beautiful” becomes breathtakingly appealing. It seems like life could work better for all of us if we’d trust Him–follow his teachings and set out together to live like him.

Personally, I’ve seen what can happen when a community of folks decide to trust Jesus. I’ve watched the abandoned not remain alone. I’ve seen the broken find some measure of healing. I’ve witnessed the marginalized and left-out find welcome and honor. I’ve seen hypocrites awaken (I’m still awakening), the prideful become humble (I’m still a work in progress), the weak grow strong, the shamed discover courage, and the guilty find forgiveness. I’ve watched the ideologically divided come together around a common life. I’ve seen some of society’s ugliest “-isms” shift toward becoming “-was’m’s.”

I’m starting to make more sense out of what Jesus said was true, good and beautiful, even though when I look around it feels a bit upside down. I guess that’s what it means to be a citizen of God’s “holy nation” while living in the midst of another.

The good news is that all are still welcome.

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Tell the truth, live the truth

The darkness may be around us but it doesn’t have to be in us.

Beloved, resist.

Reach for love.

Reach for joy.

Don’t deny the darkness, but don’t be overwhelmed by it.

Tell the truth, shame the devil.

Live the truth, silence the deniers.

Follow Jesus.


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Terrible Damage

“If you are here unfaithfully with us / you’re causing terrible damage.”
~ Rumi the poet, 800 years ago in “Forget Your Life.”

Who you invite into your inner circle matters. You can love and welcome all your neighbors without submitting yourself to harm and abusive relationship. As a pastor I’ve had to learn (and still am learning) this the hard way. Some will choose to remain in the drama triangle—victim/martyr/persecutor cycle. Some will see you as a means to the end of their needs. You don’t have to stay close to that. You can remain hospitable and compassionate. You can demonstrate a forgiving-love. But you do not have to keep close company with those who cause terrible damage.

So, in the words of a quote I read the other day, “If standing up for yourself burns a bridge, I have matches. We ride at dawn.”

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Stupid Ideas

While reading Ephesians this weekend this jumped out to me:

“Nobody should deceive you with stupid ideas. God’s anger comes down on those who are disobedient because of this kind of thing. So you shouldn’t have anything to do with them. You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, so live your life as children of light. Light produces fruit that consists of every sort of goodness, justice, and truth. Therefore, test everything to see what’s pleasing to the Lord, and don’t participate in the unfruitful actions of darkness. Instead, you should reveal the truth about them.” ~ Ephesians 5:6-11

There are stupid ideas out there, always inviting us to believe them as true. Paul says we shouldn’t have anything to do with them. At one time we were darkness, contributing to them while believing them, but now we are light. And light produces fruit that consists of every sort of, and say this with me, goodness, justice, and truth.

Then Paul tells us to “test everything to see what is pleasing to the Lord.” So here is what I am thinking.

If it doesn’t promote goodness, it is a stupid idea. If it doesn’t promote justice, it is a stupid idea. If it doesn’t promote truth, it is a stupid idea.

Then he tells us to not even participate in these stupid ideas because they are unfruitful. Instead, we should call it out and reveal what is true about them: that anything that doesn’t promote goodness, justice and truth harms all of us.

Jesus shows us what is good. Jesus shows us what is just. Jesus shows us what is true.

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Certainty deceives us.
Cynicism discontents us.
Chaos disables us.
Self-sufficiency disbands us.
Fear destroys us.

Faith calls us.
Hope centers us.
Peace calms us.
Grace cures us.
Love compels us.

No matter what, there is only us.

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