Again, for the early Jesus community, the idea of calling Jesus the Messiah was, for better or worse, much less about establishing a Jewish King on a Jewish throne to bring about Jewish liberation and much more about seeing Messiah as someone who would establish justice on Earth, ending oppression for all universally, both those Jewish and non-Jewish.
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“For he has set a day when he will order the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31)
Today, however, it is much more life giving to speak of Jesus without using the language of messiahs and heroes. For Jesus followers today, do we believe that in the teachings of Jesus there is a path toward healing injustice, oppression, and violence in our world today? Or does Jesus’ death just provide us with a ticket out of this place to a better world? I side with the former.
There is much to draw from the Jesus story when we see it through the lens of the Jewish hope of putting to right all injustice in our world today. As I mentioned two weeks ago, today we face the injustices of racism, White supremacy, Christian nationalism, misogyny, patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, economic elitism, classism, ableism, xenophobia, and so many more challenges. And though these issues are not all directly named in the Jesus story, his story does model how to be a source of healing and life when facing things that are harmful. Principles for how we can be about healing the harms in our present world are there for us to experiment with.
Today, I don’t use “Messiah” language to describe Jesus or my claims about Jesus. But I do affirm that in the Jesus of the Jesus story, we encounter values, ethics, and teachings that if actually applied to our lives could make Jesus followers a source of healing for the harms in our world. Let me be clear that Christians are right now largely responsible for many of these harms. And so maybe that’s where we as Jesus followers can start if we haven’t started already.
Rather than “converting the world” to Jesus, maybe we could focus today on working to win Christianity and those who bear Jesus’ name to the teachings of the Jesus in the gospels. If we could just apply Jesus’ teachings to the list of injustices listed above that are within Christianity today, we’d be a long way toward being a source of healing and life in our larger world. In the words of 1 Peter 4:17, may the putting right of injustice in our world “begin with God’s household.”
Herb’s new book, Finding Jesus: A story of a fundamentalist preacher who unexpectedly discovered the social, political, and economic teachings of the Gospels, is now available at Renewed Heart Ministries.