We all recognize that our social media feeds these days are a frenzy of outrage, disgust, frustration, and vitriol. Christians actually seem the most frenzied. It is inconceivable, we think, that certain people resist what are obviously decent and moral policies, practices, or perspectives. Yet how lovely would it be if we could give up for Lent our outrage, disgust, frustration, and vitriol. Are we afraid that if we lay them down, we will fail Jesus somehow? that following Jesus demands righteous contempt? that we all become Zealots?
In his last hours of teaching before his death, Jesus tells his befuddled followers that “the one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him” (Jn. 14.21). Then Judas-not-Iscariot asks the million-dollar question: “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?”
Is there a better question in all of the Gospels? Is not this the question that we wrestle with, in one way or another, every time we run into a disconnect between our efforts to follow Jesus and the ways of contemporary politics and culture? The disciples of Christ saw what the rest of the world could not, and their claim to vision drew down the revulsion of Jews and Greeks alike.
Jesus doesn’t reveal himself to the world any more than he chose to manifest his resurrected body to Pilate, to Herod, or the Sanhedrin. Jesus replies, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Vision is tied to love and obedience, and these result in intimacy with God, the kind of intimacy of home life—behind closed doors frumpy hair, ratty sweats, and leftovers from the back of the refrigerator intimacy.
Imagine a Lent where love and obedience to Jesus Christ were inseparable, so that loving Jesus was actually incompatible with malice toward another, with sexual immorality, with greed, with showing favoritism of any kind, with dishonesty, with lack of generosity, with contempt toward those who disagree with us.
Imagine a Lent that focused on intimacy with God by doing these things: refusing to let our hearts be troubled, believing in God, believing in Jesus, abiding in Christ’s love, loving each other, and interceding for one another.
Imagine a Lent that accepted the fact that the world does not know the Father, and the world cannot receive the Spirit. When we expect the world to reflect the holiness, the justice, and the compassion of God, we expect what cannot possibly happen. Rather, Jesus warns us, the more we pursue intimacy with God, the more the world will hate us.
Imagine a Lent where we didn’t give the world other reasons to hate us. Our very claim to vision—Jesus Christ has been revealed to us and not to the world—is reason enough.