This is the fourth in a series of posts where I re-imagine Jesus’ five big sermons as TED Talks, in which he Educates people in God’s new Design for a world that runs on the Technology called love. This post is an interpretive paraphrase of Matthew 18.
I was recently asked: “In this new world God is building, who’s in charge?”
To answer that, I need some audience participation. I need help from a kid… You… Yes, you, can you come up here a minute?…Hello, dear one, what’s your name? … Hi Katie, thank you for helping me out with this…
Okay, everybody look at Katie. Hear me loud and clear: The only way to even get started in my new world, you gotta be like Katie. You have go all the way back to kindergarten, start over, and never stop being a beginner.
Ruling in my kingdom means being a hospitable space for Katie to be Katie and for you to be you.
But if instead you introduce Katie to the global Game of rivalry and hate, it would better for you to sleep with the fishes in concrete shoes.
- Woe to the world for the games it wants to play with Katie!
- Woe to the advertisers who will teach her to despise herself so that she will buy their products!
- Woe to the politicians who will turn Katie into just another hate-cog for their political machines!
- Woe to those who will school Katie to be silent in the face of systemic theft, rape, and murder!
- Woe to the Joneses who will draw Katie into keeping up with them!
Woe to that sicko who lures Katie into The Game.
The Game ends with killing fields and gas chambers. Do whatever it takes to not go there. And if you go, don’t you dare take Katie with you.
Kids and beginners, dropouts and failures, and all those at the bottom of the hierarchy—they are not distractions from the mission; they are the mission. The Son of Man has come to find those who have fallen through the cracks. Think about it: If you have 100 sheep and lose one, you leave the 99 to find the one. My Dad will never give up on a single person. He doesn’t know the meaning of “lost cause.”
Can you imagine believing in your neighbors the way God believes in you? If your sister’s behavior is wounding you in some way, talk it over with her. If she remains unwilling to respect your boundaries, bring one or two trustworthy friends into the conversation. Let the larger tribe be a part of the solution. If she keeps violating your boundaries anyway, take action to put some space between you and her, but never give up on her. Keep yourself safe from abuse, but treat her like you treat Gentiles and tax collectors — with unrelenting kindness and grace.
These little relationship decisions — they are the industrial earth-moving equipment that will shape and build the new heaven and earth. The spaces between you is where I live.
That’s what I’ve got to say today. There’s some time left in my slot, so I’d be happy to take questions and comments from the audience…
AUDIENCE MEMBER: “This hypothetical sister who is ‘wounding’ me… How many times am I required to forgive her before I am justified in washing my hands of her? Seven times?
How’s this: If you get to seven, stretch it out to 77. If that doesn’t work, try 777.
I once knew this guy named Joe. Joe was a gambler, and he owed Nicky-the-Squid $6 billion dollars, but Nicky forgives the debt: “Fuhgettabouddit” were his exact words. But then Joe goes and starts smacking around a guy who owes him $10,000. Nicky finds out about this, ties Joe to a chair in his basement, and proceeds to get medieval on his ass.
The question is not “How many times should I forgive?” The question is “Are you sure forgiveness is a thing you want to opt out of?”
John Stonecypher is a theologian/blogger/speaker living in Denver with his wife, Karen, and their 3 sons. John’s other endeavors include The Jesus Benyosef Project, a 4-year interactive social media drama of Jesus’ ministry years, and Geeked-Out Soul, a blog exploring geek spirituality.