On Going Where Jesus Goes, but for Real
Most of us American Christians would like to think that if we lived in Israel back in the 30s AD, we would have been one of the ones who got it. Surely, we would have recognized the Christ, even though He flew in the face of everything we were expecting, everything we were taught, everything we wanted, and everything we were comfortable with.
And maybe you would have. But I don’t think I would have.
Rachel Held Evans wrote in her 2010 book Evolving in Monkey Town,
“When I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that the people I most identify with in all of Scripture are the Pharisees. Like the Pharisees, I know a lot of the Bible and am familiar with all the acceptable –isms and –ologies of orthodoxy. Like the Pharisees, I am skeptical of spiritual movements that don’t conform to my expectations about how God works in the world. Like the Pharisees, I like to try to cram the Great I Am into my favorite political positions, theological systems, and pet projects. Like the Pharisees, I judge easily, crave attention, and fear losing my status as a good believer.”
Yeah. That hurt a little bit. We always talk about how Jesus never spoke harshly to anyone but the religious elite of the day. We, or at least I, say that as if I’m not one of the religious elite, but I’ve been wondering lately…
If Jesus showed up in Denver, would I recognize Him? Would I even be able to find him? Because I have a feeling that He wouldn’t be spending much time at our small groups and bible studies and church services.
I’m not saying there’s something wrong with Sunday morning service or Wednesday night bible study. I’m just asking myself this question.
Where would He go? Who would He hang out with?
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
Back in the day, Jesus spent His time with prostitutes, tax collectors, and all manner of social outcasts. He talked a lot (a lot) about caring for the widows, the orphans, and the generally disadvantaged. The first people that heard about His birth were a bunch of shepherds. The first person He revealed His divinity to was an unmarried Samaritan woman. He gave most of His affection to children. He touched the unclean. He violated the Sabbath. The first people who saw Him after He rose from the dead were women. He broke all the rules.
This is why the Pharisees missed it. To quote Rachel Held Evans again, “Jesus didn’t fit the mold… His theology was too edgy, His friends too salacious, and his love too inclusive.” In every way, Jesus’ life revolved around the Least of These, the powerless and destitute and marginalized. And this is who I would find Him with if He showed up in Denver today.
He’d be on Colfax, having a face-to-face conversation with a prostitute, without a shade of condemnation in His eyes.
He’d be under bridges and on street corners laying hands on the homeless.
He’d be walking fearlessly into 5 points, fearlessly confronting gangbangers with the power of Heaven.
He’d be in City Park telling hundreds of gathering people that the poor will be blessed, those overcome with sorrow will laugh, and the persecuted will inherit the Kingdom.
If He came to church on Sunday morning He’d probably answer questions with more questions, tell seemingly random anecdotes, and offend religious sensibilities. Or, as one of my Pastors often says, he’d probably head straight to the kid’s church, and we’d have to go back there to see him.
One thing is for sure: wherever Jesus went, he left a trail of healed and liberated people behind Him.
I don’t see that in myself. I’d like to think that the people in my wake aren’t wounded by my interactions with them, but they aren’t usually changed. And everyone- every single person – that met Jesus was changed.
Living like that sounds hard. But it wasn’t hard for Jesus because He was overcome with selfless love and constantly “moved with compassion.” Everything He did, He did as a man, filled with the Spirit and empowered by God. That means I can do it too, but it doesn’t work if I don’t love.
Going where Jesus goes is hard and ultimately meaningless if I’m acting out of obligation rather than compassion.