Taking Jesus seriously as Lord may cause some christians to consider you a lunatic. Taking Jesus seriously as Liberator may cause some christians to consider you a liberal. Taking Jesus seriously as King may cause some christians to consider you a conservative. Taking Jesus seriously as Restorer may cause some christians to consider you a radical. Taking Jesus seriously as Advocate may cause some Christians to think you have some sort of agenda.
What all of these possibilities expose is the ideological categories we tend to impose upon Jesus. If you or I are not careful we’ll react to those with a need for these categories and labels and fall into the ideological trap. We may be tempted to return the favor and hand out a few labels of our own. Placing labels upon another demonstrates our woefully pitiful tendency to childishly avoid dealing with the discomfort of alternative points of view. Ultimately, casting down labels or constructing categories is our way of stubbornly refusing to deal with another’s personhood.
When it comes to this little conundrum I’ve discovered two things in my short 17 years of vocational ministry. The first is that people who reach for categories and labels rarely see how much influence their ideology has over them, especially when it’s dressed in the clothes of religion. It’s happened to me. It still can. The second is this, the reality of taking Jesus seriously still has to look like something in 2017 and it isn’t always going to align with anyone’s preferences, including mine.
The Witness of the Christian Scriptures
The Christian Scriptures teach us that Jesus preached in the synagogues and demonstrated the presence of God’s kingdom in Galilean neighborhoods. He proclaimed forgiveness of sins and practiced hospitality with “sinners.” He made the blind to see and the disabled able. He strengthened weakened hands and straightened crooked legs. He touched the untouchable lepers and welcomed the unwelcomable lawbreakers. He hugged the hurting and held little children.
Jesus’ own disciples didn’t understand him, his family couldn’t explain him and the religious leaders couldn’t stand him. He was called a drunkard, labeled out-of-his-mind, rejected by the religious right, and lambasted by the religious left.
Though none of us might readily admit it, there is a chance many of us would find him difficult to understand or explain today. I’ve often wondered what I would think about him if he came to us at this time and in this place.
I think he would preach in our churches and demonstrate the presence of God’s kingdom in our subdivisions. I think he would still proclaim forgiveness of sins and practice hospitality with those we consider the worst of sinners. I think he would make the blind see but remind us that though we can see we can still go blind. I think he would prove that the disabled are able but remind us that the able can always disable themselves. I think he would still strengthen weakened hands but remind us that sometimes strong hands are actually weak. I think he would still straighten crooked legs but remind us that straightened legs sometimes walk along crooked paths. I think he would still touch the untouchable and welcome the unwelcomeable but remind us that we should do the same. I think he would still hug the hurting and hold the little children but remind us that when we hurt we can come to him with faith like a child trusting that he loves us.
Labelled Lunatics Pressing On
Brothers and sisters, keep taking Jesus seriously. He will always embrace you. Be sure to surround yourself with people who are trying to take Jesus seriously too. When the arrows of accusation fly and the Gatling gun of gossip is deployed, stand firm as a peacemaker who follows the Prince of Peace. Lean in to your companions for encouragement so together you can be encouraged by Emmanuel. Pray for the ones attacking you from behind and be quick to forgive, just as the Lord forgives you. Bless them as you are able, even when it is hard.
When you and I decide to take Jesus seriously and other Christians start tossing out labels, let’s encourage one another to remember that the same gracious love at work in us is at work in all.
Jesus is still Lord. Press on.