I find it interesting that where ever you find a system in the world, there is a resistance to that system. Quite a few of my favourite genre’s of music – rock and punk music and their various offshoots, all seek to rebel against a system, subvert it or overthrow it. This resistance is not just common place, it is expected, except in Christianity…
Let’s just quickly look at this phenomenon in Christianity. (what follows are generalisations to identify a trend) Think about how after John Wesley had died and the Methodist movement lost momentum, the Salvation Army rose up on the fringes of society to do what the Methodists were no longer doing. The Jesus Movement sprang up on the beaches of California, not in the churches, but now many of those churches look exactly the same as the old ones before. Think about how Evangelicalism rose up because the Gospel was being lost, but now most Evangelical churches can’t find the Gospel in the Gospels, they head straight for Romans and end up often missing the point of both.
I have found Jesus to be more radical and more loving than anything I can find on a Sunday morning. It was not by accident that John the Baptist was calling people to repent and turn back to God on the banks of a river, not in a church meeting. That Jesus was baptised and the Father blessed him at a river, not in a church meeting. Maybe it’s significant that our sins and debts are settled outside Jerusalem on a cross. God doesn’t need another meeting (note that church and meeting are not synonymous) to make us better followers of Jesus.
Instead when Jesus calls me to follow him, I see him hanging on the cross with arms wide stretched and a love that reaches from earth to heaven and back again. I think we as christians like to talk about God’s unconditional love because that sounds so nice and inviting, but his sacrifical cross-shaped love gets a lot more challenging. However it is this kind of love that makes Jesus so radical, he turns the world, he turns my world upside down, not with fear, not with violence, but radical cross-shaped love. Who else is doing that? No one.
When I accept the invitation to follow him, he points beyond our cross, as I ask him “Where are we going? He shows me the empty tomb and says “We’re going beyond that hill over there”. Jesus is not trying to make me a better person, or helping me find my purpose. His radical message is to leave those things behind and come on the adventure of His Purpose, a new creation. To settle for all the principles and self-help pschology that is apparently found in the bible is to settle for a “jesus” that couldn’t break a coffee mug in a christian bookstore let alone change the world.
I am fascinated by the resurrection and the new creation that Jesus invites us to participate in. But when last did you hear someone talk about the resurrection? Probably only when trying to prove that Jesus is God. We have lost the invitation and the importance of what Jesus invites us into, because he certainly didn’t rise from the dead so we could attend Wednesday Cell Groups, Sunday Services and then the occasional weekend Seminar.
The resurrection and the power of Jesus New Creation is in the invitation to Incarnation. To go to heaven when we die to experience a disembodied (sorry I think I am preaching now) eternal life is not actually what the Jews, Jesus or the New Testament Church were talking about. Ever wonder why the early church didn’t get tired and discouraged when Jesus 2nd coming was delayed and people were being martyred? I think it’s because they understood what Paul meant when he wrote 1 Cor 15 (the link is to the NRSV version), that they were incarnating the New Creation in the brokeness of the old.
That is the radical Jesus I am coming to know and love. I am happy to follow him out of the old city to the undiscovered country, the promised land, Jesus himself.