Saturday, September 12, 2009

Customer Service

We’d like a different Jesus, please.
We’d like to return this one.
This one keeps insisting that the meek will inherit the earth
And that he had come to bring good news to the poor.
By his steady gaze he reminds us
That our sins and weaknesses are known to him
And that they are not “better” than othersAnd our excuses don’t excuse.
When we declare that our people rule the world
Because we are quite naturally rulers
He tells us that those who follow him
Ought not to “lord it” over others,
And that he came to serve.
When we point out that we deserve what we have
His story reminds us that he took what we deserve
On the cross.
When we try to tell our children that He values
Hard work, excellence and family,
He interrupts and tells them that
He values love, mercy, forgiveness
And radical welcome.
We try to keep him within safe boundaries
By reading in the back of the book
And avoiding the red letters,
But the problem is He’s alive
And His Spirit keeps reminding us
Of what we already read.
We want to return this Jesus
And carry home the one
The radio voices seem to know.
That one would just go better
With our color scheme
And is easier in polite
We’d like a different Jesus.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

An apology for scoffing - and an apologetic for humility

I have a confession to make. I have been a "scoffer."

Psalm 1 says, "oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with scoffers. But they delight in doing everything the LORD wants." (New Living Translation)

But it so much fun to be a scoffer! It's so pleasant to hang around with those who see things exactly the way you do, and laugh at those who disagree. We know who we are; we're the ones who are right! The more we mock our "opponents," the more sure we are that we belong. It is a satisfying feeling.

Jesus, however, asks something higher of us. He told us to "follow" Him, and He deliberately invited people who didn't hang out much with each other to be his disciples. He willingly ate with all kinds of folks, and every time he did, there was some other group of people disapproving of his dinner company. By being with them, he didn't become like them - instead, he modeled godliness in the midst of them, by loving them, listening to them, and gently redirecting them. Simon the Pharisee was a person to him (even though Simon was rude); the woman crying at his feet and wiping them with her hair was a person to him (even though she was a lawbreaker). All persons were, to him, people made in the image of God who labored under the handicap and deceit of sin - they were the "sick" for whom he had come as doctor. All persons.

So since Paul told us that our attitude should be exactly the same as Jesus', and then reminded us that Jesus "poured himself out" for us, "making himself nothing," and obeying God all the way to the cross for us, why do we think it is our obedient task to decide who is wrong and then assume the worst about them? To laugh and point and call names, which makes us feel ever so safe?

Yesterday I received an email from a Christian video web site. It invited me to watch a new video, their "staff pick." This comedy video featured a "Christian comedian" singing a well-known tune for which the words had been changed - and his version mocked a particular political point of view. Hey, it's just a joke, right? But the words accused his political opponents of thievery and worse, and most of all, of being out to get him.

Seriously? This is Christianity now?

I'm not unfamiliar with politics, and -- see my original confession - not unfamiliar with political scoffing. But seeing it done with the label "Christian" brought me up short: it's NOT Christian - Christ-honoring - to accuse others of evil intent, and evil identity, just because they don't agree with me. And when others ARE up to no good, it's not funny. And if I as a Christian feel it is my duty to point it out, I'd better be sure of it --because not only is the other's reputation at stake, so is my Lord's. He is the one whose name I bear - and what does it mean to use the name of the Lord in vain?

So I repent. I will be more careful to consider others as people for whom Christ died, and commit to praying even for those I may never meet but whose positions I disagree with. And I call others who bear the name of Jesus, to make this commitment as well - for His glory.