Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Downsizing Jesus

Strangely enough, following Jesus will get you in trouble with those same people who claim to be Christians.

Jesus says, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matt 5:44)

Christians say "Torture is ok and Jesus would approve of it."

Jesus says, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God." (Mark 10:25)

Christians say, "God wants you to be rich and wealth is a sign of God's favor."

If someone wanted to actually put the words of Jesus into practice (as Jesus fully expected his followers to do), that person would quickly become an outcast in today's Christian community.

For example: Jesus commanded us to love one another. He commanded us to pray for those who persecute us. The New Testament tells us to submit to "every authority instituted among men" (1 Peter 2:13-14). But try posting "I love Obama" on your Facebook page as a Christian and just wait for the firestorm to come down on your head.

"What?! How can you love that baby-killing loser?"

Nevermind the fact that Christians are called to love everyone --even baby-killing pseudo-muslim commander's in chief.

Nevermind that the New Testament calls us to submit to our rulers and pray for those who persecute us.

At some point, every Christian, (myself included) takes a detour off the narrow path and settles for less than Jesus and His Gospel.

"Turn the other cheek? I guess so, but that doesn't work for nation-building."

"Love my enemies? But what about the man who raped my sister?"

"Wash the feet of my employees and serve the one's who call me the boss? You've gotta be kidding, right?"

"Give to anyone who asks of me? But that guy still hasn't returned my lawnmower."

"If anyone wants to sue me I'm supposed to give them more than they ask for? Are you kidding me?"

How far are we willing to follow Jesus?

How much are willing to trust that Jesus is right and that His teachings are true?

At what point will we stop in our tracks and say, "Jesus, I love you but I cannot take your teachings that far"?

When I look at the early church I am amazed at how they remained committed to Jesus and to His teachings of servant hood, love for others, radical compassion for the poor and non-violence.

It's amazing to me that for over 300 years they continued to hold fast to the example of Jesus who forgave his executioners and prayed for his torturers and went like a lamb to the slaughter.

Even when it appeared that it wasn't working, they never gave up on Jesus or His teachings. Even as their property was confiscated they held on tight to the teachings of Jesus. Even when they were thrown to the flames or put to death in the lion's den, they never shrank back from the values of the Kingdom or the Gospel of Christ.

At least, that is, until it appeared that they had won the victory. Once Constantine declared himself to be a Christian and offered them a chance to trade their suffering for leisure and their outcast status for popularity, they blinked. They settled for the best the Empire could give them and they let go of the radical doctrine of Jesus.

Today we who call ourselves "Christians" are still unable to let go of our status. We're still unwilling to lay down our considerable resources to embrace the simple teaching of Jesus.

"Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did."- 1 John 2:6

The Christians in Acts shared all things.
The Christians in Acts sold their possessions and gave it to the poor.
The Christians in Acts took their land and their property and liquidated them so that others could be fed and clothed.
Their hope was in Jesus alone. Their trust was in the truth of His teachings.

We will not let go of our tax exemption status.
We will not sell our property.
We will not give our offering to the poor.
We will not share our blessings freely with other believers.
We will not lay aside our political gains.
Our hope is in ourselves. Our trust is in American Democracy and the power of our vote.

We have become the polar opposite of the Church in Acts. We have become a church that seeks material gain for itself rather than selling it to share with the poor, the outcast, the outsiders.

Even though following Jesus is a lost art. Even though putting his words into practice may get you into trouble. Even though others may criticize you and persecute you for attempting such a thing, I encourage you to follow Jesus today, and every day.

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."
- Jesus, Matthew 7:21-27


Like a Mustard Seed said...

"Nevermind that the New Testament calls us to submit to our rulers and pray for those who persecute us."

Isn't it interesting that the so-called "Christian Nation" that the modern, corporate-styled (anti-Acts) church mirrors and relies upon, was actually birthed by completely disobeying this command of Jesus...?

Keith Giles said...

Being a patriot and being a follower of Jesus seem to be more and more in conflict.

Everytime I see someone trying to have both at the same time I see compromise. I see Jesus as the co-pilot. I see an Empire-serving church on a leash to the State.

If I had to choose, I'd choose Jesus.

Anthony said...

One writer I once read made a compelling case that Christianity lost its way when they sacrificed living according to Jesus' teaching for doctrines and theologies. Compare how easy it easy to verbally assent to an orthodox creed versus living according to Jesus' teachings. Consider how Athanasius, champion of the Orthodox Nicene creed, was repeatedly called out by his fellow bishops and the Roman authorities for being a thug and resorting to violence.

DC said...

the battle with self... we have to go through a daily transformation in Christ. rom. 12:1,2