Friday, November 20, 2009

was Jesus really that radical?

So, was Jesus really that radical?
What's so new about his kingdom?

The church I grew up in is full of good people. People who have good values and treat each other pretty well. People who work hard and pay their bills and even some of their debt to society. What is confusing to me is that we never looked that much different than the good people in other kingdoms, following other teachers. Good Jews, Catholics, Capitalists, and Patriots had the same value system, voted for the same politicians and had the same stance on moral issues.

What's so radical about Jesus?

As I have dug into the teachings of Jesus for myself and on-purpose decided to question the belief system I was handed I found something that I had never been taught. I cannot take credit for this understanding of Jesus as others before me have perceived the same thing. [John Howard Yoder in his book The Politics of Jesus is a good example.]

We will call this concept revolutionary subordination. In short, Jesus taught freedom. Not just freedom from sin but freedom from all the systems or powers of this world [ie. government, economics, religion, etc.]. This is the revolutionary part. Unfortunately, for the modern moral majority he didn't just leave us to figure out for ourselves what to do with this freedom - he actually lived in such a way as to display for us what his kingdom was all about. This is the subordination part.

Jesus served the very people his kingdom came to oppose. He sacrificed himself for the very people his value system stood against. While being free from the systems or "kingdoms" of his world he did not abolish them by forceful overthrow of them. He spoke against the religious "kingdom" that had enslaved the Jewish people. He spoke against the economic system which had created a wide chasm between the upper and lower classes. He even stood against the political system of his day and establised a kingdom that exercised authority in a radically new way.

But ultimately the kingdoms that Jesus opposed put him to death. It's as if Jesus was able to ignore the natural fear of oppresive authority while he taught that his kingdom opposed the kingdoms of this world. He was radically revolutionary without using the methods of this world.
He established a value system - a personal ethic - that not only is different from the world's values but executes itself in a different way.

The best example I can think of is the popular ethic of "the lesser of two evils" or maybe the
"greatest good for the greatest number". Who hasn't made a decision according to this ethic?
Jesus is never recorded using this ethic. Rather, he asked the question, "What is my father doing?" Even if his decisions seemed to effect no change or negative change he was not bound by the "greatest good" or the "lesser of two evils".

He positioned himself to be in radical opposition to the world and its powers and authority while at the same time giving himself to and for those who opposed and hated him. This is a radical ethic. Does it exist on the earth?


  1. I guess underlying somewhere in me I have always thought that Jesus was not that into politics as usual. Maybe that's why our Christian friends think we are liberals and our liberal friends think we are conservatives. Maybe that's why when we hang around a group of Christians who quote Bill OReilly and Sean Hannity constantly I just can't agree and kinda feel like they are tools. Maybe that's why when we hang around a certain family who are Christians and vote Democrat I still don't totally agree, but understand where they are coming from, and feel like they have part of the picture right.

    Why is it that we can listen to the Holy Spirit in church, hard times, etc., but we don't listen when it comes to politics. I think for me sometimes it's just plain laziness. It takes way less effort to vote a straight Republican ticket (because they oppose abortion of course) than listen to the Holy Spirit.

    Now Dan, I have not read this book you gave Adam yet, but I will say, if you are saying that not being involved in our government in any way is what we should be doing and that we should not vote, run for office etc., then I think you are wrong...what say you?

  2. I am not suggesting a non-paticipatory posture toward politics, voting, or running for office. Just the contrary, I am suggesting that there are not enough of us who have taken the time to examine the teachings of Jesus so that we can have a kingdom voice in the present political dialogue.

    You have noticed the same thing that I have noticed, Christians are continually scrambling to join a conversation that has already been polarized by conservatives and liberals. Where are the spirit-following, Jesus loving points of view that reveal the kingdom of heaven to the world?

    I think it goes something like this:
    President Bush tells us that we will do everything in our power to hunt down and capture or kill those who were responsible for Sept. 11. Unfortunately, in the process tens of thousands of Muslims have been maimed or killed. This is the lesser of two evils as long as we can agree that American lives are more important than Iraqi lives.

    Jesus taught, "Love your enemies, pray for those who treat you poorly, and lend them money without expecting to get paid back." The policy we are currently following has nothing to do with what Jesus taught. It is simply what appears to be safest for us as a country.

    Second example:
    President Obama uses a lot of rhetoric about hope and displays a passion for helping out poor people. He would like to redistribute the wealth of our country; moving some of it from the wealthy to the poor.

    This sounds something like Jesus' teaching of the ecomics of Jubilee. Jubilee worked on a cycle of 50 years. Those who through miss-management, laziness, robbery, natural disaster, bad luck, or exploitation had lost their land, business, or freedom were given a do-over. Everything was returned to them. Of course this meant that the wealthy lost a significant amount of their wealth and the poor gained a significant amount of wealth.

    Rethink things, the kingdom of heaven is here.

    Interesting thoughts, thanks for joining the conversation.