The Thing About Jesus

The Thing About Jesus January 31, 2014

Okay, so there are a lot of “things” about Jesus. But the thing I’ve been meditating on most recently is his mind-blowing capacity to meet people exactly where they are. It seems like a simple concept, but we struggle day in and day out to accept people as children of God. Instead, we tend to ask things of them before they’re deemed worthy of our love, time, or respect. Or before they’re deemed worthy of food or medical care (another post for another time).

Let us think about some Scripture. In John 8, Jesus doesn’t walk up to the prostitute and say “Alright look, I’ll tell them to leave you alone but only if you cleans yourself and promise never to sin again. Otherwise you’re on your own.” Instead, well, you know the story. Instead he tells the scribes and the Pharisees that anyone among them who has never sinned may cast the first stone. And, predictably, they all drop their weapons and walk away. It is then, after Jesus accepted and protected the woman as she was,  that he sends her on her way and tells her not to sin again.

Let’s look at another. In Luke 19, Jesus doesn’t approach the tax collector Zacchaeus and say “I’ll stay at your house if you quit your job and give away your riches.” Instead he sees him up in the fig tree and says “Zacchaeus, I’m crashing with you tonight. Let’s go.” And through this ministry, Zacchaeus is inspired to give away half of his possessions and repay those he has cheated. But this is only after Jesus recognizes him by name, thus acknowledging him fully not as a sinner but as a child of God.

In both instances, Jesus met people exactly where they were. He did not ask for things before loving them. He did not expect change before encounter. And so I ask myself: Can I do that?

There are some lines from a book I’m currently reading that got this whole piece rolling for me. They read, “So, if you want to live in accord with Him, you can’t do it just by being law-abiding. You have to try, again, to be like Him, and to do what He does. He doesn’t wait for us to come to Him where he is, out there beyond the need for the law; He comes to us, right now, where we live in the grip of our necessities, to bring us the rest of His gift, to complete the work the law began.”

I felt like the words were screaming up at me from the off-white page. “Jessica, take note!” See, I’ve spent the last 12 months or so organizing faith groups on college campuses around climate change with the goal of changing hearts and minds. My goals have always been a) to get people to believe in climate change and b) to get them to take action. And shoot, if I haven’t been thinking about it all wrong…

I’m starting to see that I can’t walk into a classroom or a campus meeting or a sanctuary and say “This is what I want you to believe.” I must first meet those children of God exactly where they are. I must acknowledge the realness of their situation. I must speak to them directly without distraction. I must be present in that encounter before we can talk about any greenhouse gas emissions. Because each of these people matter. “They matter in themselves. They are not a means to an end.”

We climate activists get so anxious sometimes about rising sea level, increased intensity of storms, and the level of CO2 in our atmosphere that all we can think about is comprehensive climate legislation. In my mind, we need a bill and we need it now. But by approaching the issue this way, I’m failing to live in accordance with Christ. I am failing to meet people exactly where they are.

So as I continue with this work in 2014, I vow to do better. Change will happen — I have to believe that. But for now, I will do my best with what I can control. No matter the end goal, I must first meet people where they are.
Follow Jessica on Twitter at @j_r_church 

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  • Digger

    What about me? I’m a very conservative, fundamental, evangelical Christian who believes in the 6×24 model of creation and does not believe in evolution and who believes that the frenzy about “man-made global warming” is a hoax. Can you meet me where I am? Can I be accepted without being insulted?

    • liberalinlove

      There is neither male nor female, slave nor free, democrat, progressive, libertarian, nor conservative, but all are one and in equal in Christ. That being said, the fruit isn’t always equal. Rotten fruit can be inspected, and for fellow believers, the obligation is to help us ALL become like Christ, by pointing out who He is and How he would respond to any situation.

      Jesus was pretty abrupt, and in your face with Pharisees. They were the fundamentalists of their day, and much entrenched in a world view based on God’s word.

      What fruit can we see from your life? As a former fundie, conservative, evangelical, creation believing, distrustful of anyone who didn’t tout party line and verse, I’ve begun the very long journey of asking God what he would have me do! That takes me to fact checking sites and in searches for other points of view, such as the many Jewish sites of orthodox, Torah believing Jews, who are not, Zionists which is a relatively new belief begun within the last hundred years. It also has me do a “whole” bible approach rather than cherry picking. So Digger, why are you on this site, and who do you say you follow. It isn’t left or right, it is Jesus. Where is he leading you to?

      • Digger

        Your long answer perplexes me. Does it mean that you can NOT accept me EXACTLY where I am? Must I change to be accepted by you?
        I didn’t post those things about myself so that you could judge me, or convince me of the right way to do religion. I only want to know if you can accept me just the way I am, like the article suggests. OR, are liberal christians only willing/able to be accepting of “all people” who think and believe exactly like themselves?
        If you and others COULD and WOULD accept me exactly where I am, then PERHAPS we could talk about Jesus rather than talk about how awful I am or how bad you are.

        • Ginger Martinez

          I believe every Christian has their own relationship with God and Jesus. If you are at peace and feel you are on the right path, then no one else can claim that you do not have a good strong relationship with them. I disagree with your politics, but hope you take to heart what I am saying. Peace and love.

        • Digger, this is America. If you’ve got an unintelligible position, best buck up and defend your ideas as best you can.

          “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.”

          ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, July 30, 1816

    • Jessica Church

      Digger, thanks so much for reading. To answer your question, I can accept you as a child of God (and I do!) without agreeing with you. If we met, I would only ask that we could first talk about our experiences, where we come from, what we hold dear… then we could venture into things on which we disagree. I care deeply about global climate change because I believe it affects the poorest populations around the world the most, and Jesus was pretty adamant about how we as Christians need to have concern for the poor. But it’s a conversation, a dialogue. And at the end of the day, bless you! Bless you for believing in the amazing power of Christ.

  • liberalinlove

    I think the verse, Go and Sin no more was added centuries later and isn’t necessarily accepted that it was in the original text. Makes you wonder that meeting Jesus is enough to create heart change.

    • I call it the Looking Over Jesus’ Shoulder To Make Sure He’d Scold Her verse.

  • Fallulah

    Don’t be dishonest. Jesus did in fact “ask for things”…he asked his apostles to leave their families for him. That’s a pretty big request.