Lowlife Jesus sounds blasphemous, but that’s because the truth hurts our mental idols disguised as piety.
You called Jesus a lowlife? How dare you say that! Jesus isn’t a lowlife! Jesus is great!
But is that true? What do you mean by “great”?
I think, to be honest, people mean to say “GREAT is Jesus” instead of “JESUS is great.” In other words, they should confess, “What I already deem to be great, that I label ‘Jesus.’” And, “I have absolutely zero interest in learning about the real Galilean Jesus. My personal Jesus—The Great One!—is much more powerful!”
But was Jesus great? Not according to his lowly Mediterranean birth. In the Gospels’ cultural world, birth determines your honor rating and pretty much how you socially rank till you die.
To understand, observe this presentation—
Lowlife Jesus Seen Culturally
What is ascribed honor given at birth, and why is it so important in understanding Jesus? Why was Jesus thought of by so many in his culture to be a lowlife? Watch the above video, folks!
Suppose you don’t understand how just being born gave Mediterraneans like Jesus their honor rating. In that case, you won’t comprehend what I mean that Jesus was seen as a lowlife. He was born a lowlife, folks. Therefore, Jesus was a lowlife, delivered to lowlife Galilean peasants, in a lowlife Galilean hamlet that nothing good came from (John 1:46).
Honor (socially-acknowledged worth) is everything in the circum-Mediterranean world, the same cultural continent from which our Bible comes. This is the place into which incarnation happened. Don’t take it seriously means you can’t take Jesus seriously.
The Moron of God
A LOT of American Christians become upset with me when I call Jesus a lowlife. That’s blasphemy? Well, good thing the Lord Jesus is the patron saint of blasphemy (i.e., shaking the world up by saying uncomfortable, unfamiliar things).
Yesterday, someone infuriated by me accused me of blaspheming the Son of God by calling him a “lowlife.” This person needs to relax because Jesus doesn’t have our Western ego.
Do you think calling Jesus a lowlife is “offensive”? Is that more or less offensive than when Paul called Jesus “God’s moron” (ὅτι τo μωρoν τοῦ θεοῦ)? Or when in the same place he referred to Jesus as “God’s weakness” (τo ἀσθενες τοῦ θεοῦ)? Go read carefully 1 Corinthians 1:24-25. Got beef with me? Take it up with the blasphemer Paul for calling Jesus the Foolishness (literally μωρoν, MORON) and Weakness of God.
From where comes all this animus? Overreliance on verbal orthodoxy and theological boilerplate. We go spinning around in comfortably unchallenged inside our insular Christian echo-chamber bubbles. All we are accomplishing is becoming irrelevant and dying out fast. Want a way out? Metanoia—put on a new mind.
Ranking Lowlife Jesus
Jesus was a peasant born to peasants, yes? Was Jesus considered great socially speaking (John 7:40-42)? I am not speaking theologically, like in our Christian clubhouse where we all merrily head-nod to one another and serve up the same boilerplate daily. Instead, I speak culturally. In fact, how would a starving Galilean peasant artisan (read day laborer begging in village squares) be ranked socially in Herodian Palestine? Answer—as a lowlife.
Besides that, the Jesus we claim to believe in, trust, and worship was a lowlife in other ways. His enemies questioned his origins, implying he was a bastard (Mark 6:3; John 8:41—meaning, “We’re not bastards—like you!”). They deemed both Jesus to be a social deviant (John 7:12, 20; 8:48; 10:20, 33; 18:30), as well as his followers (John 9:22; 12:42; 16:2).
The real Jesus was a subversive—hence, “crucify him!” The ridiculous Jesuses congenial to our Western sentimentalities and cultural values would hardly merit being crucified. Who would do that to Care Bear Jesus? When are our U.S. parishes and chanceries going to cease and desist this mockery of our Lord?
Tough Questions for American Believers
It is late for many of my readers to ask the crucial question—who is this Jesus I worship? If you aren’t worshipping a lowlife Jesus—a subversive heretic and blasphemer—you, simply put, are an idolater. The Real Deal Jesus was indeed a lowlife unwelcome in elite urban circles of first-century Herodian Palestine. Not only that, he would be just as unwelcome in our posh middle-class American parishes with 24-7 White-Circle Adoration. Believe me!
Have a problem with that? That’s on you! Stop committing identity theft on Jesus.