God doesn’t go in this box.

December 23, 2013


I have problems with this message.

While, technically, I approve of the ‘let’s de-white, un-middle-class Jesus’ concept, this frankly reads a whole lot like someone decided they’d flick through the red lettered bits of the Bible and try to pick-and-mix moments of Jesus to make a poster boy for their own agenda. Which I disapprove of, no matter what that agenda is and whether I sympathise with it or not.

It’s not so much the details of what it’s saying that I find concerning, but why and how it’s saying these things- although yes, I have issues with the accuracy of what it’s saying, too. Some things are technically right (Jesus was radical? Yes. Revolutionary? Very. A Middle-Eastern, non-English-speaking, first century Palestinian Jew, thus clearly non-American? Yes, that’s why the books of the Bible were written in Ancient Greek and Hebrew.) but quite a few things are technically wrong, particularly in what they’re implying.

Here’s three. Firstly, it says that Jesus doesn’t mention birth control and abortion, which is indeed true. Jesus also isn’t recorded as mentioning a whole lot of other things, such as hopscotch and incest and horseradish and putting Baileys in your hot chocolate and child abuse and eating tacos on Mondays, which doesn’t mean that he didn’t think any of these were right or wrong; it just means the biblical writers didn’t mention him mentioning them. In short, arguments from silence are Bad Arguments, and using the things someone didn’t say to make them look like they support your ideas is skewing information with a vengeance.

Secondly, although I haven’t checked any commentaries on this, I’m pretty sure Matthew 6:5 isn’t about the whole institution of public prayer (which this appears to be making it out to be) so much as it is about not showing off and being ostentatiously self-righteous.

Finally, Jesus hung around with lepers and hookers and crooks- definitely!- but it wasn’t to justify or accept anybody’s lifestyle (although this doesn’t negate the fact that he loved them, which is probably why he hung around with them); meeting with Jesus inevitably meant being invited to radically change the way one lived, in order to fit his definitions of right and wrong and what it actually meant to be free- as it still does today. Giving half or all of one’s possessions to the poor, being healed of disease and sickness, letting go of one’s job and family and wealth and ideologies to follow him around the dusty Judean countryside, and going and sinning no more are all examples of what he expected from the people he met.

 

So. While I appreciate that this message is a reaction against a particular image of a milk-and-water, upper-middle-class, mild-eyed white Colonialism Jesus who just wants you to be happy and rich and retired and smiles benevolently on the way you ignore the lost and the outcast and the homeless man with the sign and the refugees who’re struggling with English and your next door neighbours- I think it’s making the opposite mistake of trying to make Jesus more like the writer’s Ideal Human with the writer’s prize ideologies.

Which, in the end, is putting him into a tiny box and completely missing the point: Jesus is a radical human, yeah, but he’s also an infinite God who came to live and die among his people to save them from evil and pain and death and war and their own broken self-destructive selves, to rescue everything and make it all right when we couldn’t. Because he loves us.

And because he loves us, he requires change from us and at the same time creates that change and provides the means for it to continue (by way of his Spirit), and in doing so offers us a radical freedom to love others fiercely and properly. To really change the world, permanently, and see the people nobody else sees and serve the people nobody else will notice, and to do all this by learning to love him and participate in the way he loves, which is never with just good feelings but action: radical, revolutionary, justice-oriented, God-seeking, self-giving, truth-loving, sacrificial action, which begins and ends, always, with what Jesus is doing, now, in and among and with us.

In short, Jesus has his own agenda, and it’s way bigger than anything this message is trying to get across.

 

(TL;DR: Jesus isn’t just a human revolutionary. Don’t put God in a box.)

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