What If Jesus Were On Twitter

What If Jesus Were On Twitter September 8, 2019

Everything He tweeted would have this as it’s background.

I just discovered “Hashtag Sunday Thoughts” on Twitter and I’m having a bit of a hard time tearing myself away. It didn’t occur to me that, just like all the other days, a curious cross-section of humanity would tag their thoughts by this particular day also and that I would be able to find and judge them. Lest this discovery of mine cause you anxiety, let me hasten to say that this is not Christian Twitter by any means. Sunday Thoughts appears to be a mixture of eco-preaching, lonely hearts, Hindusplaining, and generic meming. Here is just a smattering:

God has never lost a battle. Never, so keep standing in faith. You’ll not be ashamed.

and

Do Good. And good will come to you.

and

You’ll know the people that feed your soul because you’ll feel good after spending time with them.

and

Don’t be scared of cooking, doing dishes, sweeping the house & washing the clothes dear. I do cook very well, Mama trained me. Don’t worry, you won’t be my slave, I’ll be your housemate & make it easier for you till eternity. I will be here waiting for your DM.

Goodness. I think Thoughts should be replaced by Prayers in that one. This last one isn’t Sunday Thoughts but it should be

God spoke through the profits so truth came from the will of God which makes it divine, and by his providence preserved in the Bible. His wisdom and sight infinite so God could prophecy through time. He present to past, present and future. #God*

It occurs to me occasionally, when I’m scrolling through twitter of a Saturday evening, trying to remember to put down my phone and pick up a book, that Jesus didn’t just rest on the Sabbath of his passion, he rested also on all those other sabbaths in his own conflictual way–healing people, picking grain, preaching in the synagogue and temple, and generally throwing everybody’s #sabbaththoughts into confusion. At the beginning of Luke 14, when presented with a man suffering from dropsy—which, frankly, sounds ghastly—the Pharisees ask him if it is “lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not,” and the rest of the chapter continues on in that combative tone. There the man stands while Jesus castigates his interlocutors about their pride, relating to them a humiliating story about a man who throws a banquet. Everyone the man invites changes their minds and decides not to come, making one lame excuse after another. Frustrated and angry, the man finally sends out his servants to bring in every outcast they can find to eat his dinner. At least some of the Scripturally educated of the gathered throng would have understood the poke in the eye this parable represented. Then, to top it off, as he going on somewhere else followed by a great crowd, Jesus turns around and makes this alarming proclamation:

‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.’

In one sense, that is eminently tweetable, but Jesus would be immediately ratioed, which, I recently discovered, is where you get more comments than likes, and all the comments are angry. It’s the modern way for you to discover that you are wrong, in case you weren’t able to tell just by reading the internet. Indeed, reading through the gospels, it seems to me that Jesus’ entire ministry is one big ratio, leading ultimately to the cross, to which his wide and general invitation is as unwelcome as that dinner party.

His first problem is his choice of the word ‘hate,’ which, the Bible reader knows, is rather nuanced—like ‘love.’ Love and Hate in their flat ordinary sense fit twitter pretty well. You don’t have to think about them very much. They arise from the gut. They don’t hint at the question of choice, which is something the Tweeters of the World like to hashtag, but don’t like to think about. Hate and Love are the kinds of feelings that sweep you up and carry you along. If only you could gather up enough tweeted motivation to be moved by enough love for yourself, above all, then you can tag your life with #happiness.

But Jesus is most curiously interested in the question of Choice, and that is why he uses the word ‘hate’ alongside all those people one is naturally inclined to ‘love.’ Parents, spouses, children, siblings and even…he dares to say it…one’s own self—hate them all, he says. By which he means walk away from them, as does the blessed man in Psalm One, planting himself by a stream of water. It’s not a flood of emotion that causes this turning away, it is a decision of the will, which Jesus makes clear in the next few verses:

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

On the surface, like love and hate, these two little anecdotes seem counter-intuitive. Binghamton, for instance, is full of buildings that people started to build without counting the cost. Or rather, they did count, but they counted wrongly. The wretched ugly thing goes up and then sits there for ten years while the builder wonders to himself how hard he should try to get more money. So also the king going to war. If modern people could be sure that their leaders were making actual calculations about the cost of such a venture, well, honestly, there would be no reason for twitter.

In other words, of course, we should all act rationally and make decisions based on the data, but we don’t—not ever, not even from the beginning. Indeed, reach all the way back through history to this morning’s first lesson and hear Moses imploring the crowds:

See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.

The crowds all cheer and promise to #tryhard. It’s distressing, rather, of Jesus to take this devastating choice—to choose between life and death—and say that the only way to have the former is to go with him wherever he is going, which happens to be the cross, leaving all others behind. The crowd around him need only look down the long dusty road and see a lot of people hanging on crosses and none of them—none—are alive anymore. If the way to life is walking away from all the people who “feed your soul,” including your own family, but most especially yourself, and embracing a sure and certain death—the cross—that calculation seems unreasonable and possibly insane. If you were going to comment on twitter to explain how insane it is, this would be the moment.

In Modern Kinship: A Queer Guide to Christian Marriage, David and Constantino Khalaf explain that Jesus is “love made flesh” and that the Holy Spirit is “the very essence of love.” They left their mothers and fathers and families behind to be with each other, because they felt, in some gut-level way, that that’s what Jesus wanted for them. They certainly made a choice, and they document the pain of their calculations. They look at the suffering and death of not being together, and conclude that they can’t bear it, and discover within themselves that Jesus would never want that for them, the cost is too immense, too intolerable.

And I would say that they are right. It is too high. It is impossible to die on purpose, to die to the self in such a complete way that everything that you love about this life and yourself you would be willing to walk away from for the sake of Jesus. When counting the cost, every one of us discovers we don’t have the money, the spoons, the strength, the ability. Choose life, says Moses, and we all say, YES, until we discover that the way to life is through death and then we all wander away to some other banqueting table.

Except, as Luke made sure to point out at the beginning of the chapter, it was the Sabbath when Jesus made this invitation—which was always Saturday. When you wake up on Sunday morning and start looking for your #sundaythoughts, you might not have accounted for that whole day, that great stretch of time, that deep, true, terrible rest of death that Jesus endured. Why did he do it? Why did he go to the cross? Because you calculated wrong. You built a tower that you shouldn’t have contemplated and declared war on God himself. You chose death, and then chose it again, and lied to yourself that it was really life.

So when you finally admit you were wrong and grab hold of the cross, when you let go of yourself, when you hate everything–but most especially yourself–, what do you find that you actually have in your grasp?

Life. Which is Jesus. Count the Cost, Go to Church. #SundayThoughts

 

*spelling choices carefully preserved from original tweet

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