Friday, November 20, 2015

Crucifying Our Common Sense

If you’re seriously going to follow Jesus, you’re going to have to let go of a lot of things – your selfishness; you sins; your bad habits, and most surprisingly, your common sense.

Jesus doesn’t give us any handrails when he tells us to love our enemies. There are no safety cones around his command to give to everyone who asks of you, expecting nothing in return. We have no bumper pads to shield us from the sharp edges of “turn the other cheek”, “bless those who curse you” or “do good to those who hate you”. None whatsoever.

Jesus proposes a reckless faith in a dangerous world where sometimes people get bruised, and jailed and yes, even killed, in the process of walking this path of sacrificial love.

Look what it did to Jesus, for example. Why should we expect better treatment?

Look what it did to the early Christians for nearly 300 years of following Jesus. Ours is a dangerous faith.

Didn’t He warn us to count the cost before taking up our cross to follow Him? Didn’t the idea of carrying a cross – a Roman torture device – clue us in to the fact that this was always about life and death? Doesn’t the New Testament contain dozens of verses that urge us not to fear but to trust in Him? Don’t we remember those scriptures that encourage us to endure suffering and commend us for bearing up under the cruel weight of persecution?

My mind has been boggled this week as Christian after Christian – while claiming to follow Jesus – has flat out denied everything Jesus ever said about welcoming the stranger as we welcome him, and who our neighbor is, and how we’re to be known for our love and hospitality.

Some have claimed that the issue is “complicated” or that Jesus isn’t really all that clear about what He wants us to do. But the only way to legitimately claim that Jesus isn’t clear is if we have conflicting sets of teachings from Jesus that make it difficult for us to understand Him. However, what we actually have is verse after verse where Jesus clearly – very clearly – aligns Himself with the outcast, the stranger and the refugee and tells us that the way we love them is the way we love Him. And on the opposite column we have absolutely nothing to counter or contradict this command to love others extravagantly.

So, what’s the confusion? If I understand correctly, most are appealing to “common sense” and the need for “self-preservation”.

Apparently the main conflict for most is the confusing possibility that Jesus might intend for us to welcome the stranger even if the stranger might potentially hurt us.

This is just common sense, of course.

The only problem is that Jesus never gives us any exceptions like this. Ever. 

What He does say is:

“Anyone who seeks to save his own life will lose it but those who lose their life for my sake will save it.” [Matt. 16:25]

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” [Luke 9:23]

“In this way they will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” [John 13:35]

What we don’t ever see is Jesus saying “Be careful”, or “Take it easy out there” or “Watch yourself”. Instead he urges us to love until it hurts.

This refugee crisis is a perfect opportunity for the Church to stand up and be known for love. 

 Instead, it’s turning into an embarrassing example of how everyone, except Christians, are willing to open their hearts to the people who are fleeing a war that our Nation helped to create.

Jesus was a refugee Himself. How could He not want us to show compassion to families fleeing violence as His family once did?

Jesus aligned with the stranger and the outcast, even going so far as to let us know that our compassion – or the lack of it  - would determine whether or not we belonged to Him.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me…whatever you’ve done for the least of these you’ve done it unto me.” – Jesus [Matt. 25:35; 40]

So, you only love Jesus as much as you love the poor, and the immigrant, and the stranger. 

Let that sink in a moment.

Rejecting refugees is the same as rejecting Jesus. That’s the simple truth of it.

See, our love for Jesus is fueled by His love for us – which is boundless and limitless and reckless and sacrificial. That’s the kind of love that kicks common sense to the curb and abandons all sense of self-preservation to run headlong into the arms of the unknown.

His perfect love casts out all our fears. But our fears can also choke out His love if we let it.

Following Jesus involves nailing your common sense to the cross and crucifying your fear.

No, it doesn’t mean that we seek out danger. It doesn’t mean that we intentionally throw ourselves into the Lion’s den.

But what it DOES mean is that, as we follow Jesus and put His commands to love everyone into practice, we will encounter dangerous situations. And when those encounters threaten us and tempt us to back down and attempt to make us waver in our commitment to follow Jesus through the very gates of hell, we need to stand firm, open our arms and pour out the uncommon, irrational, transformational love of Christ until our enemies become our friends, or we die in the process.

Either way we win.

Bottom line: There is no room for self-preservation on the road to self-denial. Jesus calls us to stop trying to save our own life and to start giving up our life – as He did – in service to others.

You can have caution and security in the name of wisdom, or you can have transformational love and mercy in the Name of Jesus. Take your pick.

Who’s ready to love with wild abandon?


"Following Jesus isn’t safe. If you want safe you need to pick someone else to follow. Following Jesus is scary and dangerous. It takes you places that make you uncomfortable. Following Jesus isn’t simple. He asks us to balance loving our enemies and protecting the innocent. If you want simple you need to pick someone else to follow." – Brian L. Powell

 NOTE: Photo Credit - David Hayward "RefuJesus". Used by permission of the artist.
David's website>
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