In this cynical and snarky world in which we live, we are getting pretty good at diagnosing the problems in the world, sometimes even to the point of paralysis. We blog about them, we read about them, (many Christians today would like to read themselves into Heaven),we discuss what’s wrong with the world and we even preach about them. Being informed is not a bad thing but it is often the only thing we do. Our Western worldview has come to equate knowledge with real spirituality. I would like to argue that knowing and being informed does not add one real thing to our spiritual life in Christ. But, what does make us spiritual?
The Jesus community must be actively present wherever oppression, marginalization and exploitation of the disenfranchised exists. Wherever prisoners are confined; where the sick are in need; where mental patients are held; where people are hungry; where people are treated unjustly for whatever reasons, where widows and orphans (be liberal in your definitions) are suffering, where immigrants are refused hospitality; where the earth and any non-human creation is being abused, etc. Whenever we give up our power and privilege in order to reach out to help another of God’s creatures, just because we can—we become more like Christ. Action, that risks something, like giving up power and privilege can actually can make us spiritual.
The American and Euro-Western church has spent the past 500 years creating a dualistic, individualistic, and abstract theology that was followed by a wake of injustice and violence against the earth and her creatures. Whole nations and species have been conquered in Jesus name! I believe that colonial driven church and that imperialistic theology is dying quickly. Hopefully, one day soon the oppressive, violent, dualistic, individualistic church, (that I contributed much to) will be only a confession on our lips that we use to check ourselves from becoming arrogant. So what is being birthed now?
From where I stand, it appears to be a messy, blundering, almost leaderless bunch of communities who want to focus on the real, authentic Jesus who gave up his own power and privilege so we could live on this earth in Him and together with all creation in a good way. That Jesus was born in a stable in the midst of mouse poop and camel spit. That Jesus grew up in the poor hillbilly region of Galilee. That Jesus hung out with prostitutes, Gentiles, beggars and other disenfranchised people. That Jesus radically spoke out against the oppression of both the Roman occupied government and his own nationalistic and religious contexts. That Jesus died with criminals and still loves everyone just the same, even the ones who oppress and kill THE voice of authenticity. That Jesus chose shepherds and women, two marginalized groups who were forbidden to testify in Jewish court, to share the most important news on earth, his birth and his resurrection. If we could represent that Jesus, the real Jesus, it sounds just like the kind of communities for which God has been waiting.
The Christmas card I received yesterday is so very “in order.” The wise men are all in their proper place giving homage to the halo lit, baby Jesus. The shepherds wait outside the barn, the animals look on with serenity. It is all as it should be for as the song goes, “the little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.” Actually, I’m glad life is not like most of my Christmas cards. Perhaps we all need a little more mouse poop and camel spit in our Christmas celebrations this year?
Life is messy. Not just my life when I first came to Jesus, but my everyday life; every time I come to Jesus. Being human is a messy affair. But I’m so glad to be human. I think about that great contextual truth in John 1:14 “and the Word was made flesh and dwelled among us.” One translation says “He pitched His tent in our camp.” Oh how grateful I am that Jesus did not come into a Christmas card world because that is not the world I live in. My world is messy and nasty and often screwed up because I make it that way. And, when it comes to my faith, I really mess up…(I have to admit, sometimes I wonder if God waits outside the church doors on Sunday morning until the service is over so we don’t become confused).
God used the most unlikely of circumstances to bring unconditional love to me. Consider this:
- Jesus was born in an obscure village among an obscure people who were living in an obscure country under foreign occupation (later He would become a refugee).
- The circumstances of His birth were very suspect and cast a shadow over a “descent” marital relationship.
- The first ones to give testimony to His impending birth were shepherds, a marginalized profession-which automatically exempted a person from testifying in civil court.
- The wise men were likely Iranian psychic/astrologers who were not even worshiping God according to the Jewish prescription.
- The cave where the Son of God was born was cold, moldy, full of animals (which always means full of animal poop and urine), had mice scattering to catch the spilled grain, people dodging birds flying in and out, and smelling like barn.
- And yes, the manger where Jesus was first laid to rest was likely full of camel, horse and donkey spit.
I don’t know about you, but I can relate to a God who allows Himself to become vulnerable to everyone and everything He created. I love to celebrate the Christ who was willing to come into my messy world so I, and everyone else could know, the mess of shit and spit in unconditional love. The fact that I receive this messy love from Jesus is motivating enough to make me want to show that kind of love to others.