Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Believing in the Red Letters

A few days ago, I tweeted a quote from Shane Claiborne that said,
"Only Jesus would be crazy enough to suggest that if you want to become the greatest, you should become the least. Only Jesus would declare God's blessing on the poor rather than on the rich and would insist that it's not enough to just love your friends. I just began to wonder if anybody still believed Jesus meant those things he said."

This quote is from his book, The Irresistible Revolution, and I wanted to talk a little about this quote, because some people are not really understanding the point.

I believe that Jesus meant what he said. I believe that pretty much everything that came out of Jesus’ mouth was controversial. I believe that very few pastors preach sermons from the words of Jesus. I believe that very few people who call themselves Christian—literally meaning “little Christ”—live like they believe the words of Jesus.

For example, Jesus said the greatest among us will be the least, and the least will be the greatest. If we believe that, then we would not strive for wealth and success. We wouldn’t worry about being the best. We would live like the least of these, knowing that we would be the greatest in the kingdom of God where we all get our just rewards. Do we live like Jesus meant what he said?

Jesus said that the meek will inherit the earth. If we really believed that, wouldn’t we lay down our pride, and in humility, pick up our cross? Wouldn’t the ideal job not be the CEO position, but a member of the janitorial staff? Are we living like Jesus meant what he said?

Jesus said to love your neighbor, do good to those who hate you, and bless those who persecute you. If we really believed that Jesus meant this as a command for our lives, it would be impossible to hold a grudge. Revenge would not be an option. Why do I hear Christian people talking about payback? Payback is not an option for a follower of Christ, because he commands us to turn the other cheek. Do we live like we believe he meant that?

Jesus said blessed are the poor. How many middle and upper middle class Christians are there in the United States today? What percentage of the church does that include? If we really believed that Jesus meant that the poor and the oppressed were the blessed ones, would we want to be rich and successful? Would that even matter? Do we live like Jesus meant what he said to his followers?

The Claiborne quote got me thinking about these things. I still believe the words written in red, and I want them to transform my life—even if that means I will be poor, persecuted, humble, and struggling. Sometimes I “wonder if anybody still believed Jesus meant those things he said." It seems to me that the church would look and act a lot differently if we all really ascribed to the words Jesus spoke so many years ago. I am not by any means jaded about the church, I just want to challenge myself and others to really look at the words of Jesus and live like we believe them!

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