Here’s a real problem I’ve got: I struggle to live my life so that I look like Jesus, or at least like one of his followers – someone who might get arrested for following him. Jesus was never an easy guy to follow when he was walking around. Everything about him was difficult. If you tried to follow him, he was going to challenge you in the extreme.
And 2000 years later, as I try to follow someone other than the dumbed-down culturally-defined Jesus I meet in American churches, I’m finding he’s still a complicated guy to follow.
Here was a man who was constantly in trouble with the authorities.
Here was a provocateur, a guy who was dismissive of the establishment. His life repudiated their value system.
Here was a guy who was sentenced as a criminal and executed.
And I follow him. This criminal.
You can hardly blame the authorities who kept warning him. They saw a blue collar bumpkin pontificating about stuff that was their area of expertise. A rabble-rouser from the provinces. He talked about this alternative kingdom. It sounded like sedition. He talked about eating his flesh. It sounded like cannibalism. He talked about splitting up families and bringing a sword.
Everything about him was a provocation to the status quo. His talk of being God’s son. The crowds he attracted. The in-your-face way that he challenged the church pastors of the day about their rules. The disrespect he showed them, calling them vipers. Comparing them to graves.
So, of course he got arrested. It was inevitable. How he made it three years is amazing.
Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi so believed in freedom for an oppressed group of
people that they were willing to get arrested for it. And the question for you and me is, what do we so
believe in that we’re willing to be arrested for it?
I’ve got my detractors, but nobody trying to arrest me. It barely qualifies as “persecution.” They look at my efforts to follow a non culturally-defined Jesus and they lob blog bombs from afar.
Mostly I figure they’re on my side – trying to defend Jesus and his kingdom. The only problem we’ve really got is that they’re doing it in impersonal ways, using the anonymity of the internet. Not talking man-to-man, maybe not asking clarifying questions. They hear me mention Gandhi and they say, “He quotes Gandhi, he must be New Age.” So, a guilt-by-association thing happens. Or they see someone who goes through the ministry I run doing something that looks strange, so they figure I must be a cult leader.
That’s fine with me. My theology is conservative and my fruit is out there for inspection. We set people free to follow Jesus rather than control them. And having detractors is normal if you’re following Jesus. We’re going to be misunderstood.
From my point of view, it’s not productive for two people who love Jesus to have internet fights. There’s a lot of collateral damage when you fight in public. The people I meet around the world who are trying to follow Jesus for the most part are lovers of people. Jesus didn’t worry about the haters and critics. He seemed to stir them up. And of course getting arrested was going to happen.
America is no longer a Christian nation. Jesus followers are starting to get persecuted if not arrested for the way they live. I say, it’s about time.
Traveling from South Sudan this week, Uche was almost arrested by the authorities for no good reason. In Pakistan, Emmanuel is constantly putting his life at risk as he brings Jesus to Muslims. They are following Jesus in hard places. And the question they would ask you is, “Is what you’re doing worth getting arrested for?” It’s a good question for us to meditate on.