Friday, January 1, 2010

who are you talking to?

There is much confusion amongst followers of Jesus as to what Jesus really taught. He says things that seem to contradict. He tells a Samaritan women that he came only for the people of Israel, but when asked who his neighbor is, Jesus makes the hero of the story the Good Samaritan. Jesus teaches that not the smallest section of the Hebrew law is to be forgotten, yet he regularly "revises" the same law when the religious leaders challenge him on things like working on the Sabbath and the law's injuction to fast or to give to the poor.

Why do we have Christians on street corners with bull-horns acting like Old Testament prophets and others posting a 3500 year old Jewish document on billboards? I believe the answer can be found in the context of Jesus' life. How silly we are to ignore the time and culture of Jesus' life as we try to understand what he taught.

Jesus came to a culture that was distinctly Jewish. What does this mean to Gentiles two millenia away? It means that much of Jesus' teaching was specifically addressing a people group who were already the people of God, who already had relationship with him, who already sought his voice and to do his will. When Jesus says in Matthew 5:13, "You are the salt of the earth. . .", he is addressing Jews (the people of God). He is warning Israel that if they don't flavor the world with the heart of their loving Father they may find themselves "thrown out and trampled on". Low and behold most of Israel rejects Jesus and over the next two thousand years we find the Jews (for the most part) on the outside looking in. We find their history repeting itself as the powers of this world trample on them.

Jesus is extremely compassionate and loving to almost everyone he encounters. He heals everyone brought to him, he feeds the hungry, he tells poor people the good news of a new kingdom. However, Jesus saves his more belligerant responses for those who are spiritual leaders. He regularly attacks the behavior and character of the spiritual leaders of Israel calling them names, insulting them, and messing up their church building. He even saves some of his most aggressive stuff for his own disciples who he is grooming to lead when he is gone. He calls Peter "Satan" and he gets openly frustrated with his guys when they cannot heal the boy with a demon. Why the double standard?

I believe that we as humans misunderstand the teachings of the son of God because we have a different orientation than he does. We look at the world as good and evil. We see us and them. We think in terms of right and wrong, anchoring our morality to a static (unchanging) system of belief.

Jesus regulary took a distinctly other-world position or a third choice. He didn't see the choice of stoning a women caught in adultery as either; obey the law or ignore the law. He inserted choice number three. Yes, the law requires her death, let the righteous execute the law. What, no one is righteous? Surprise. Surprise. Hey, I'm righteous, and I decide to give you mercy not judgment. By the way, sweetheart, you probably don't want to sleep around anymore.

Jesus' posture recognizes that two different groups are present when they bring him the woman caught in adultery. Group one, morally upright, leaders in the church, intent on "protecting" their righteousness. To these Jesus has a message that causes conviction; a message of direct instruction, a message that if it does not produce repentance will cause distance between them and Jesus. What happens? What they thought was the morally right execution of their function in the people of God is taken away from them. This causes many "leaders" in the church to secretly resent the teachings of Jesus and to look for ways to retain control, to keep their position.

Group two, the woman.

Jesus was constantly aware of two groups of people who were following him around. Group one were the outsiders, the poor, the rejected, the sorrowful, the sick. These he pursued with love. These, he hung out with in their comfortable places and befriended. To these he said, "I haven't come to judge you but to love you." His kingdom is expressly for them. This is why he has come.

Group two are the righteous, the insiders, the healthy. Now, Jesus is not against these people because they are righteous, healthy insiders. Rather, he resents the posture of those who have gotten theirs and are not concerned that others be included. In fact, I would suggest that Jesus loves the insider just as much as the outsider. But his invitation to these is different. Come, spend your wealth on the poor. Invest, your health and energy on those who are sick. Risk your comfort and safety to attack the powers of this world and undo the work of Satan in the world.

So whether you consider yourself to be an insider or an outsider, whether you are healthy or sick, whether you have tons of joy or regulary sorrow; Jesus invites both groups to be part of a third group. Those who wish to be intimate with Jesus and as they grow healthy in him to invest that strength the same way Jesus invested his strenth - for the salvation of those who are hurting.

Jesus said, "I did not come to call the healthy but the sick." However, he would love it if the healthy would join him in loving on the sick. So God Bless the bull-horns and the billboards. Just keep them inside the church buildings where only the "righteous" can feel the sting of rebuke and wrestle with the law. After all, this was Jesus' model and should be ours as well.

Just some stuff we should talk about.


  1. Sorry but im not quite getting the "keep the righteous in the church" statment. I don't really have a lot to say about this other than i think your totaly right, I'm about to use a movie again sorry, jesus is like lucy in the narnia books, she is always looking to aslan, whats he say whats does he think we should do.

    In the latest narnia move towards the end of the movie there agrueing weather to ride out and fight or stay and fortify and fight as the conversation gets more and more heated lucy cuts in and says "You all think there's only two opptions, die in here or die out there" then lucy procides with her idea, GO FIND ASLAN, and they all think shes BLOODY CRAZY!!!! but she goes any way and comes back with him and an army and they win the day.

    Moral of the story i think my dad is right. ^-^


  2. "them" refers to the bull-horns and the billboards not the righteous.

  3. great post Dan.
    the duality of our worldview could also be put into the terms of sacred and secular . its a form of self righteousness. if we can create a clear line of seperation, our guilt is appeased and we feel righteous.
    I have always believed that righteousness is meant to be grown, not defended. Righteousness is not a princess in a castle, or a kid at school being bullied. It is a fruit grown in the knowing, surrenderring to and following of the Godman Jesus Christ.

    When we feel the need to defend righteousness,we may check to see if what we seek to defend is actually righteousness at all. it may have the form, but self righteousness feels like the real thing but it doesn't deliver. Most times we(christians) are just rude, beligerant and ignorant. The moral arguments are made mostly to elevate one side above the other. and it becomes counter productive to true righteousness

    in fact the fruit of righteousness is peace and a quiet confidence. (IS 32:17)

    People were made to decide. to choose. and if western christianity tries to decide everything for the person before they sign up, then where does a relationship with God even fit into the equation. how is righteousness grown in a lab?
    we have tried to break down knowing God into an equation, a fixed set of parameters of our understanding.
    we have been trying to clone christians in a sterile lab under a microscope.
    It's the holy Sprit's job to convict and God's to judge - the church's job is to love as He has loved ...

    anyways, just a few thoughts that I didnt spell check or proof read.

  4. wow luke, you wanna preach at my church?
    "righteousness is grown not defended" Best piece of truth I've heard this year (ok the year is only 4 days old). But really, anytime morality is raised to a place that trumps relationship, I'm gonna have a bad feeling in my gut.
    "It's the holy spirit's job to convict and God's to judge - the church's job is to love as Jesus loved." I think if we can keep our eye on these job descriptions our valley will experience the love and presence of God like never before.

  5. First off, I love what Luke wrote, "righteousness is grown not defended". The need to defend something reveals an obvious lack of peace and trust.
    "But the wisdom that comes from heavan is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." James 3:17-18
    "This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy one of Israel says, 'In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength..." Isaiah 30:15
    I live in a neighborhood that is 'low income'. Graham and I often discuss the bondage that many people in our neighborhood are in. There is a definite spirit of 'entitlement' and 'poverty' that many people have bought into. It's this "get all you can when you can" mentality (like how I treated icecream in DTS). I agree that "self-righteousness" looks a lot like righteousness, but "doesn't deliver". Kind of like a brand new SUV (or in our case an '73 Landcrusier) in a poor person's yard looks rich, but infact is a huge burden of debt on the owner. I believe as a Christ-follower I'm called to come to the table wealthy. "Be imitators of God as dearly loved children." Ephesians 5:1. If we truly opperate as dearly loved children of the most high king, I think a lot of the pressure to perform and self preserve would dissolve and we would be free to truly "love because he first loved us" I John 4:19
    I feel the need to bring up again that the reason we feel the need to defend, is because we're afraid. "Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid it is for fear of punishment, and this shows we have not truly experienced his perfect love." I John 4:18

  6. Really like the language Jessica uses. Why the need to "self-preserve"? If we could let the Holy Spirit show us the underlying reason behing this I'd bet a lot of our fears would shrink away to nothing.