Today: Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Jesus the radical    (11/25/2007)

So who is Jesus? Che Guevara or Bob Geldof, revolutionary or Mr Nice Guy? It's strange that many people, both inside and outside the church, always think of Jesus as Mr Nice Guy, rather than someone like Mr T from the A Team , or some other radical fighter against oppression!

An old children's prayer begins, ‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon this little child…' Gentle he frequently was, with his compassion for the weak and vulnerable, and his love of children. But meek ? In today's go-getting and often macho culture, this isn't an aspirational word, what with its associations with submission, humility and obedience.

Jesus was meek, although only in his relationship with God. He lived his life in obedience to the Father's call, up to and including submitting himself to death. There is nothing at all weak in someone accepting death, or the risk of death, for the sake of others. Do you recall the story of Captain Oates on the Scott Expedition in Antarctica ? Or the fire-fighters first on the scene at Chernobyl , and on 9/11?

Jesus stood up to the rich and powerful of his day, and those who paid more attention to religion than God, and he was pretty challenging about it. He called some of them ‘whited sepulchres'—which sounds poetic, but it's actually a fairly direct way of saying, ‘nice image, shame about the corruption'. He dared to be critical of royalty, which at that time was a bit like playing Russian roulette, especially as another critic had been beheaded (see that story in Mark [NT], chapter 6).

On one occasion, in the temple of Jerusalem , Jesus was so angry at the unfair and corrupt trading that went on inside that he made himself a whip and trashed the market stalls. That's along the lines of the invasions of the British Houses of Parliament by campaigners that we've seen recently! He got quite cross with his disciples on occasion, too.

Jesus cared about people—passionately. That's why he could be gentle or ferocious, depending on the circumstances. Anger, condemnation, and accusation all had places in Jesus' repertoire, alongside patience, compassion, gentleness and, yes, meekness. Actually, those confrontational emotions and decisions are all aspects of love, if the motivation is the transformation and well-being of the person to whom they are directed. ‘Tough love', we call it; just as tough actions may be described as ‘muscular Christianity'.

Christianity is a crutch—because you do need support if something is broken, as our lives are without God in them. But once you're mended, Christianity is a constant, hard challenge to live life differently —and face the consequences of being different. In many countries, that may only bring ridicule as well as some admiration, but elsewhere it has meant discrimination, imprisonment, or even death.

Christians are called to this, because that's how it was for Jesus. If you think he was a softy, think again! Read the gospels, starting with Mark, and discover for yourself that Jesus wasn't so meek and mild.

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