My dear friend Joel will often interrupt even the most seemingly casual conversations with his peers to stop and look at the example of Jesus in one of the four gospels – or even all of them, comparing the accounts from the different perspectives of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. He says,
‘If our job is to find and follow Jesus Christ, we ought to spend a great deal of time looking at what he actually did, don’t you think?’
He’s got a point.
The phrase ‘What would Jesus do?’ (often abbreviated to WWJD) became increasingly popular in the 1990s and many Evangelical Christians used this phrase as a reminder of their belief in a moral imperative to act like him, often wearing bracelets to remind them to consider that question in the midst of their daily decision making.
But as my friend is fond of saying, many of us make assumptions as to what Jesus would actually do based on our accepted method of engagement some 2,000 years removed from Christ, rather than spending time studying and pouring over the record available to us in the gospels to see what he actually did.
This is why Joel will stop conversations, whip out his beat up bible, and diligently search the pages of the New Testament. He is committed to finding out what Jesus actually did do, and instructing his own words and behavior accordingly.
His commitment to this task inspires me – and it’s a habit I’ve attempted to implement in my own life – daily spending time in the gospels, looking at the life of Jesus and patterning my own actions in response.
As I’ve done so, I’ve solidified an under-preached truth ::
Jesus upset the cultural norms for the purpose of standing in solidarity with the Other.
Whenever I take the time to look deeply into the life of Christ as recorded in the gospel narratives, I am reminded at how intent Jesus was in standing in solidarity with Others – those whom had been outcast and marginalized by the elite religious community for one reason or another.
Think about it ::
• The woman caught in the act of adultery and clearly guilty of sin.
• The man born blind and blamed for by the authorities as being sinful.
• The outcast leper whose very presence in culture was outlawed by the Law.
• The man with a withered hand, lingering in the synagogue and hoping for a miracle.
• The traitor tax collector who worked in cohort with the oppressive Roman regime and took advantage of his own people for his personal gain.
• The beggar at the Pool of Mercy who held little value to the structure of society in the eyes of everyone but Jesus.
The list goes on, and extends to even you and me :: outcasts || beggars || prostitutes || drunkards || tax collectors || Gentiles || zealots || doubters || betrayers || cheaters || liars || failures || lost sheep || people haunted by their own demons || sinners || humans.
All of us.
We’re all ‘Other.’
Looking deeply into the life of Christ as recorded in the gospel narratives, we continually and consistently find him standing in solidarity with Others – people whom the religious community had cast aside as outcasts or unworthy, for a myriad of reasons that Jesus – in his divine wisdom – did not find compelling enough for exclusion.
Time and time again Jesus upsets the accepted method of cultural engagement and crosses the dictated boundaries of normalcy – in relentless pursuit of re-connecting that which had been disconnected. For Jesus, the marginalization of the Other was simply an opportunity to shower them with hope and reconciliation.
Jesus stands in solidarity with the Other.
From the very beginning of and throughout his life, Jesus embodies the Divine welcoming of the Other, culminating in the self-sacrificial act of reconciliation on our behalf. Embodying that same welcome is at the heart of our own obedience to God’s grace.
That’s what Jesus would do. It’s what he did.
That is the gospel. That is reconciliation. That is love. And that is our orientation.
As someone who takes the Scriptures seriously, I do not see how I can avoid doing the same thing with those most often marginalized in my own cultural context. This is what motivates me to join in our work at The Marin Foundation, to build bridges between opposing worldviews rather than fighting with one side or the other to dictate cultural normalcy and marginalize the view seen as ‘Other.’ As a Christ follower, I am called and compelled to follow in Jesus’ example – to literally be an ambassador of reconciliation and stand in solidarity with the Other.
What does it mean to you to actually “stand in solidarity with the Other?”