Christianity 201

February 1, 2019

Never Say “The Bible Doesn’t Talk About Politics”

This is our second time featuring the writing of Craig Greenfield, founder and director of Alongsiders International and author of Subversive Jesus: An Adventure in Justice and Mercy in a Broken World.

Yes the Bible talks about politics. All the time.

You’ve heard it.  I’ve heard it.

We’ve all heard it.

“Jesus was never political. He was only interested in saving souls and building his church.”

The problem is, the Bible is a very political book. And the scriptures have a LOT to say about how we should organize ourselves as a society.

Remember all that stuff about orphans, widows and foreigners that Jesus emphasized? That’s deeply political. Because we vote for people who make decisions about the poor, on our behalf. That’s what our love looks like in public.

Now Jesus was no Republican. Nor was he a Democrat. And he wasn’t a capitalist OR a socialist.

As Jim Wallis says, “The right doesn’t get it. And the left gets it wrong.”

The way of Jesus is the Third Way.

And this Jesus-way of bringing his Kingdom, ON EARTH as it is in heaven – has a lot of political implications.

Look at the context. Almost the entire Bible is written by people living in the shadow of one political Empire or another. The first readers of our scriptures were slaves and fugitives, fishermen and fools. They were the oppressed of Egypt, the exiled in Babylon, and the peasants under Roman occupation.

And so, it made perfect sense that Jesus would choose to come as one of those underdogs of a political Empire—a vulnerable child with nowhere to go, his parents shuffled about by the Roman demand for a census.

But here’s what we miss about Jesus’ birth. There are really only two goals in carrying out a major census – the kind that framed his entry into the world. Just two reasons to go to all that extra expense and bureaucratic hassle to count every single head in the entire Roman world (Lk 2:1).

The first reason is to determine the number of people who can pay taxes.

And the second, is to figure out the number of men who can fight in an army.

Tax and War.  Money and Power. Politics.

In other words, the birth of Christ took place in the shadow of the twin pillars of a typical political Empire: economic power and military might.

Isn’t it interesting then, that when Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist is asked what it means to repent, he directly addresses the representatives of those two pillars of Empire by calling on the tax collectors (representing economic power) and the soldiers (representing military might) to act with justice (Lk 3:12-14).

Then, Jesus comes along preaching a radical alternative to this type of Empire. Something he called the Kingdom of God (or as Matthew calls it, the Kingdom of Heaven).

Jesus’ subversive Upside-Down Kingdom stands in stark contrast to the way we like to do politics. It’s something that will come on earth as it is in heaven.

Whereas Empire comes on a white military horse wielding weapons of shock and awe, the Upside-Down Kingdom comes on a donkey’s back and says love your enemy, even if he crucifies you. That’s a deeply political stance.

Whereas Empire consolidates power and says let’s make our nation great, the Upside-Down Kingdom kneels with a towel and washes feet, saying I come to serve – even those of other tribes. That’s a deeply political stance.

Whereas Empire honors the influential and celebrates the celebrity, the Upside-Down Kingdom welcomes little refugee children and gives food to the hungry. That’s a deeply political stance.

Whereas Empire is about power and status and tax breaks for the rich, the Upside-Down Kingdom is led by a handful of unemployed fishermen, rejected bureaucrats, a prostitute and some failed revolutionaries. That’s a deeply political stance.

Whereas Empire is a rat race to the top, the Upside-Down Kingdom says the last should be first, losers are winners, and the most important among us will do the dishes. That’s a deeply political stance.

Such a radical alternative to the Empire could only lead to one outcome – the leader being silenced and murdered by the State. And that’s exactly what happened.

The fake divide between our personal morality and political morality is a lie. We vote for the kind of society Jesus wants – or we don’t.

The Bible is deeply concerned about how a nation treats its poor, which is a political issue (though you might argue about how a government can do this most effectively).

The nation of Israel was punished for its disobedience in this regard:

“‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.” (Ezekiel 16:48-50)

Here’s the problem. Many of us live lives that are comfortable enough to be untouched by politics.

We’re not affected by refugee quotas, or welfare systems, or how much money is put into inner city schools.

We can do what we want, go where we want, and educate our kids in whatever damn school we want.

We can wash our hands of politics, and turn away from our poor neighbors. We can insulate ourselves from the needs of the world and make our faith a private, individual affair..

And our hyper-personalized theology reflects that privilege.

But instead, I’d like to invite you to consider a different path. I invite you to walk amongst the poor… Read Mary’s Song (Lk 1:46-55)… Visit a refugee holding center… Stay overnight in a slum… Find some way, somehow, to overlap with those on the margins.

And then tell me government policies don’t matter for the orphan, the widow and the foreigner – and that Jesus doesn’t care about all that.

Cos our faith is always personal, but never private.

June 12, 2015

Never Thirst Again

Jen Rodewald writes at the blog The Free Slave’s Devotional and posted this exposition of the familiar story of The Woman at the Well. I hope you find something new in the story today. Click the title below to read at source.

Out of Bondage

“Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again—ever.” –John 4:13-14a, HCSB

I wonder what she was thinking as she walked that well-worn trail on her own. Every day that trek to the well must have been a reminder…Of dreams unfulfilled. Of a longing unmet. Of shame. It was a walk most women made together, a chore done as a social engagement. Except for the outcast, the scorned.

With every step toward that well she could hear the whispers in her restless soul. All she ever wanted was love, the lasting kind. But men…they’re not the faithful types. And because she cannot extinguish the thirst to be held, wanted, she is that woman.

A kept woman. A mistress.

A man’s voice meets her at the well, drawing her attention from her feet. “I am thirsty.”

She stares at him. He is a Jew. Jews don’t talk to Samaritans, especially Samaritan women. Unless… She gauges his inspection. His look is not the seductive kind. She would know, after all.

“Why do you speak to me?” she stammers. “I am a woman. A Samaritan woman.” And it’s so much worse than that.

He cracks a small grin, as if he knows a secret.

Oh, no. Does every man in Judea know about me as well?

His voice drifts with kindness over the well between them. “If you knew who spoke to you, you would ask me for living water.”

Does he think he’s a magician? She snorts. “How will you draw the water, sir? This well is very deep.”

“Ah,” his grin spreads full. “But you see, woman, everyone who drinks from this well will thirst again. I am talking about living water—whoever drinks of it will never thirst again. It will become a spring life within.”

No more drawing water? No more taking the lonely walk of shame throughout town? “Sir, give me this water so I will not have to come here again!”

That knowing look crept back in his eyes. “Go, call you husband, and come back.”

Her heart stalled. Husband? Did he know? “I—” She swallowed. “I’m not married.”

His gaze didn’t waver. “Indeed, not at the moment. But you have been, five times. But the man you are with now…”

Her face burns as she casts her look to the ground. How is this possible? How can this man know the ugly, intimate details of her life?

How can he know all this…and still speak to her?

“You are a prophet.” And not like any religious man I’ve ever met. What makes you so kind to a woman you clearly know is unworthy? “Tell me, how do I worship God?”

“The Father wants people who will worship in spirit and in truth.”

Truth? I know the truth about me—and apparently so do you. Does God know? Probably.

She chances a glance back at him again. His face is gentle, and yet, absolute. Truth. Can He be? “The Messiah is coming. He will tell us Truth.”

He smiled like a proud parent. “Woman,” his eyes dance, as if he’s about to share that secret, “I am He.”

She knew it. But He is here, talking to her? A woman of…filth. Tears gathered in her eyes. He talked to her, and offered her living water—the kind that would satisfy her forever. The kind that she’d been longing for her whole life.

Suddenly, the invitation became clear. Everything that she’d searched for in life He held in His kind hands. Love. Belonging. Forgiveness. All that she’d thirst for, quenched by his living water. Water that would satisfy. Water that would cleanse.

He would give it to her. All she must do is ask.

April 5, 2015

His Resurrection Is Their Resurrection Is Our Resurrection

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:36 pm
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HeHasRisen_lg

Effrem Smith wrote this with Easter in view, but also in terms of a theme very important to him, social justice and reconciliation. Readers here know the primary implications of Christ’s resurrection, but the impact of his rising from the dead is like a river that spreads out its tributaries in so many different ways; like a branch which spreads out leaves in so many different directions.

There are simply so many transformative things that are taking place in our world today because Christ is risen from the dead. The lens through which he views this in this article in no way minimizes Christ’s triumph over sin and death.

Let’s take a step beyond atonement: What are the implications of the resurrection in your community? In your life? How does the risen Christ make a difference in neighborhoods, families, schools and workplaces?

 

When The Poor Rise With Christ

“Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that he raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.”

1 Corinthians 15:12-17 (NASB)

For too many of the poor, marginalized, outcast, and demonized, every day is like Good Friday. They live surrounded by death, judgement, and prejudice. When Christ hung on the cross and freely gave His life He was surrounded by death, judgement, and prejudice as well. As He hung on the cross, he looked with a forgiving spirit upon those who mocked Him and cheered His suffering. He hung on the cross as all of the sins of humanity hung on his shoulders. The good news is that this is not how this part of the story concluded. Christ endured Good Friday and came out of the grave on Resurrection Day. He rose indeed.

What about the poor, marginalized, outcast, and demonized? Is there a Resurrection Day for them? Now, I realize that through the new covenant established in Christ, that all who accept Him as Lord and Savior rise with Him into Kingdom citizenship and eternity. But, I focus more deeply on the least of these in order to lift up a significant part of the mission of Christ when He walked the earth. Many times when Jesus was declaring and demonstrating the Kingdom of God, He did so among the least of those around Him. There were times when he broke social and religious customs in order to bring mobility, sight, life, dignity, and liberation to Samaritans, Canaanites, women, children, and the poor. Even as He hung on the cross, he engaged a thief and empowered him to rise into new eternal possibilities.

I am grieved as I go into this weekend focused on death and resurrection because I have witnessed so many examples of the poor, marginalized, and rejected being so shamed and demonized in our world. There are even examples of Christians who, judge, patronize, shame, and mock the least of these in our society. Instead of seeing the lowly as just as much made in the image of God as the privileged, we as Christians sometimes join in with Satan’s plan and labeling by seeing only the thug, gangsta, hoe, criminal, enemy, and demon in a person. Christ was able to look at a woman caught in adultery, a scandalous Samaritan, a man plagued by a legion of demons, a girl left for dead, and a thief and see something else.

I also have great hope that when the Church sees the least of these thru the eyes of Christ a new movement will rise up. It is then that we will experience a whole new understanding of the dead rising with the risen Savior.