Lauren and I were recently grabbing a quick dinner with some friends at a local “christian” restaurant. The food is good, but the salads are produced from the tears of God.
Chuck Norris ate this salad and died. Okay, I apologize for the cheese but it is delightful.
When the waiter approached us, he told us that if any of us were in the military we would get a discount on the food we ordered. Since I have never been in the military, and I was in noted Christian run establishment, I figured, “Why wouldn’t I ask this question!” “Well sir,” I said, “what if you are in the army of the Lord? Do I get a discount?” He simply smiled and walked away.
Although I was being snarky I couldn’t help but think that even if you believe in God and the prince of peace, there are some things we just don’t reform our thinking on: the need for violence, the futility of gospel intervention and the need to hold allegiance to our country in spite of massive contradictions with our faith.
“So pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?’ Jesus answered, ‘My Kingdom is not of this world. If my Kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my Kingdom is not from the world.’”-John 18:33-36
The cries were of revolution!
When Jesus was walking into Jerusalem, just one week before His crucifixion, the Jews (some followers and some attendees) raised up the banner of the Hebrew: the palm branch. What filled the calm air that morning was something startling: cries of joy, cries of love, cries of hope, but how many of us actually know what those cries were, beyond your typical Sunday school Palm Sunday illustration on the cute flannel graph?
They were the cries of a revolution.
What sort of revolution? We may be familiar with the battle cry conferences and the titles given to youth groups, titles in which the youth pastor hopes to stir his or her students up by way of passion, but that is not the kind of revolution I am talking about. (At least not the kind that can remain on the church website, in hopes the youth group kids remain in church once they go off to university.)
This “hosanna!” revolution would look more like:
Che’ Guevarra than Martin Luther King jr.
Spartacus than Ghandi
William Wallace than Nelson Mandela
Guerilla warfare instead of nonviolence
Cutting off ears instead of loving sacrifice
Shame instead of honor
Beating instead of winning.
This Palm Sunday was different. When the crowd cried “Hosanna,” the word used was not your typical, be lifted higher, hosanna. It was not your Hillsong chorus, lift your hands in the air like you just don’t care, HOSANNA. It was the cry of an army lifting their branches as war banners saying, “You are our leader, come and save us.”
Save us from what? An occupation.
It is safe to say that while we read the Gospel and interpret them to mean they wanted to simply lift Jesus high, the true interpretation is that for 3 and half years of Jesus’ ministry, He was largely misunderstood. They wanted a political leader, a Julius Caesar, to rise up and defend them. But Jesus wanted something different; He wanted the Kingdom of God.
1. The Kind of Revolution Jesus Wants
It is important that we understand that the Bible is not written from the perspective of the lofty, the rich, or those in high positions of authority. It was written from the bias of the poor and the occupied. So, it may be fair to say that Jesus’ revolution begins with the poor, but by “poor,” Jesus means poor in spirit, the spiritually bankrupt. In other words, Jesus is calling a group of ragamuffins, desperate followers, and lonely jokers hoping for the newness of life to enter into outside of Netflix binges and smart phone madness. These Kingdom-seekers are those who desire the Kingdom, but have yet to hear about the King or how to get in (the gospel). The ideal attracts them, but until they reckon with the King, there is not lasting change.
It is important that we understand that the Bible is not written from the perspective of the lofty, the rich, or those in high positions of authority.
The Good News is that His truth is marching on! He wants a counterculture generation willing to take a moment throughout their occupation and choose to live each day in the culture of love, peace and offering. Suffering in this age is freedom from everything, not merely suffering as physical pain because that type is just too small for us. I am talking about the suffering of allowing the uncomfortable nature of inconvenience to come upon us.
Suffering is when the poor, the broken, the annoying, the hopeless and the dirty would willingly inconvenience us, and we allow it. Suffering is not a culture that tolerates sickness for the sake of growing in character. I do not see this in scripture. Suffering is persecution and toleration of the people we don’t naturally get along with.
This is the essence of the Good News: Joy has come, not only to those who are dirty, but for those who already know they are dirty.
The problem is that none of us want to evangelism as it has been taught to us. How do we actually share our faith?
You see, if I were to compare evangelism to a real life situation it would be like a kid who has lost his dad in the mall, and is searching for him because he is lost. What would you do? Most likely, you would walk up to the child and tell him/her you will aid him/her in finding their father. What would you say to the person who walks up to the lost child and simply declares, “Hey little kid, your lost. You can’t find your dad and you’re walking around crying. Are you sure you know you’re lost?” We would think that person to be a jerk! Yet this is exactly what evangelism is in the church, walking up to lost people and telling them what they already know.
Rather, it is our job to be the person to walk up that lost child and say, “Hey, I’ll help you find or discover your father.”
We are called to walk on the water of culture and see things from a different perspective, expanding the worldview (repentance) of all we come in contact with.
Jesus is, and always has been, driven by love.
Lets go back to the scene I have painted for us, with Jesus on Palm Sunday:
Jesus saddles a donkey and nearly seals his fate as the next Julius Caesar, when He does something that good revolutionaries, the ones who gather the crowd around the megaphone for the big speeches just after a stirring entrance, don’t do: Gives no rousing speech. For Jesus knew the same people who would call Him the Son of David on this day, would crucify Him later on in the week. For Jesus, it wasn’t about what people were going to possibly do to hurt Him, because Jesus wasn’t and still isn’t driven by offense, or even us doing things for Him. He is, and always will be, driven by love. This love is not only something Jesus does, it is what He is.
Why would they crucify Him?
- Why did Jesus have to die?
The answer is found in this question: Why would anyone’s followers turn on him or her if not because the ideas the mob were presenting were not going to be fulfilled in this leader.
And here we are at an impasse: If you follow the crowd too much, be careful you don’t find yourself holding the coats of those who stone the very leader you were following. In the Christian faith, we don’t follow a crowd, or a market strategy, a political system, nor a label we can be defined as apart from Jesus. We follow a crucified Savior. Rather than the stars and stripes, our first symbol is the slaughtered Lamb.
For God so loved the world, He gave…(John 3:16)
What if we thought of it this way:
For God so loved the Palestinian…
For God so loved the Israeli…
Perhaps we would be better off praying over the conflict like this: “For God so loved the world (including the Palestinians wandering around in darkness and lostness), that He sent His one and only Son (a Jew). When we receive those religious emails that use verses about Abraham to justify sending your evangelical money to buy more tanks and bullets, do we stop and think: “What Would Jesus actually Do?”
When I say the word “Empire,” what do you think?
God did not come as an Emperor; rather He came to the earth in humility, dressed in swaddling clothes given shelter by a smelly barn. Not unlike Israel who got out of Egypt but needed 40 years to get the Egypt out of the Israelites, we as American Christians must learn how to get the empire out of the church before we can speak to the power of the empire.
2. The Kind of Label Jesus Wants
“God made man in His image, and man returned the favor.”-Pascal
If the French Philosopher is right, then we have mixed up our faith in Christ with a style of patriotism that resembles nothing like the crucified Savior, who while dying a gruesome death on a cross, was reconciling the world unto Himself with His Father. God looks like Jesus, and whom have we made Jesus to look like?
Jesus didn’t come to slay, but to be slain.
Jesus didn’t come to placate or appease His Father, but reveal the Father.
Jesus came to put a face on God, and we (the church) are here to put a face on Jesus.
God is not white or black.
Republican or Democrat.
Conservative or Liberal.
Facebook or Google plus.
Argentina or Germany.
We need to say to ourselves, “I am not a label that others can disregard like trash from the printer, already used and forgotten. Therefore, I neither accept nor cling to ideas I can embody apart from Christ.”
God Versus Religion: It is hard to tell these days, the differences between religion and the Kingdom. Even now, when I speak with people they will refer to those like me as “religious” or carrying a certain devotion to a historic institution. There was even one person I heard say, “Religion is for people who don’t want to go to hell, and spirituality is for people who have already been there.” I love this statement because it is very true. Religion is always about status. Who is in and who is out, how to identify if you are in or out. What type of person comprises the “in” tribe and what type of person comprises the “out” tribe?
Are churches dying because they aren’t living what they are preaching or is it because they are living what they preach: An angry God who is lurking the universe…?
Thus, how one came become right or make peace with God is always the center of the gospel in our churches and the center of how we end up building our churches. How else do you explain why most churches have either dwindled or died, and it’s mainly because there is no effort to reach out to other people who don’t act or look like they do? Is it because they aren’t living what they are preaching or most probably because they are living what they preach: An angry God who is lurking the universe with His arms crossed waiting for us to give Him the cosmic hug of, “I’m sorry,” before He accepts where we are at?
It is not long after this mindset sets in that we have adopted a theology that states discipleship begins once you say, “I’m sorry.” Once the sinner has repented, then Jesus begins to train Him in hardcore apologetics, developing him or her into a person who can defend and define their faith, yet with no ability to live their faith.
Might I suggest that discipleship begins the moment you start interacting with an unbeliever? It is more important we learn how to live our faith, than defend it.
Becoming a follower of Jesus means shedding the pulse of traditional “us verse them” mentality and adopting the more ancient and the more biblical “us with them” mentality. For our enemies are not flesh and blood, but are in the spirit realm, which is affecting the natural realm, we see. If you wear an earth suit, you’re my brother. If you hate me anyways, I’ll love you regardless.
Might I suggest that we gain a better label for the lost, which Jesus Himself spells out for us in Matthew 9: Helpless, Harassed and likened to sheep without a shepherd.
He is the face that when covered in thick blood and sweat, on the cross cries out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
“So Pilate went outside to them and said, ‘what accusation do you bring against this man?’”-John 18:29
The word used for “accusation” is the Greek word we get for category.
The British have a saying, that when you choose a football team, you nail those colors to your wooden fence. Sometimes your fidelity to those colors wanes. And to think, I very nearly nailed my colors to Brazil…
Rather the accusers were seeking to nail Jesus with some sort of term that would lead Him straight to His death.
“When you label me, you negate me.”-Kierkegaard
“When you label me, you negate me.”-Kierkegaard
I am not talking about taking the side of good against evil. We are all called to do that, but what ever happened to the idea of honoring authority being the route of preserving the voice of a group. It is in our refusal to nail our colors to the fence of the world systems that we preserve our prophetic witness to the governing authorities and rulers of the nations. After all, it is Jesus who has commanded us all to disciple nations, not merely individuals.
The Red Flag
Might I suggest, that God himself nails one color to a wooden fence, and it remains today and always will be the color red. The blood of His own Son? It is this color that we are called to represent, long before we put on the red, white and blue.
We are first Kingdom citizens before American citizens. And unlike Germany in the World Cup, the colors of Christ will not be in competition in four years.
I smell like…Jesus
Here is my Point:
We embody the King we belong to
…and when we touch the things He is touching, we are where He is
We embody the ideas we belong to
…and when the life we embody doesn’t look like Jesus, it isn’t Jesus, period.
There is not a single person on planet earth who’s actions fall short of their beliefs
Show me a broken person and I can show you the lies they have clung to.
Show me the hypocrisy you struggle with and I’ll help you see the lie you believe as truth.
Show me your loss of energy to seek Jesus and I’ll show you your loss of that initial hope.
It is this problem that the Gospel address: The loss of a life and beauty we once had, and are unable to find again, even though all creation groans and longs for it.
I bless you to make your allegiance to the King of Glory be of more importance than your allegiance to other kings.