If you’re a Christian, and unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ve likely heard about the recent hullabaloo over Louie Giglio and his on/off again relationship with next week’s Presidential Inauguration. Seems Louie gave a message 15-20 years ago that followed the biblical line about all people being sinners, and as such, in need of a Savior. Of course, the anti-Gigli-ites are legion, both from the political left (hooray!!) and Christians (Louie owes us an explanation about where he stands, because he was unclear in his withdrawal letter). All of this has got my mind turning about Christianity and it’s interaction level with culture and social issues. A cursory look at Sojourners reveals the perspective that Jesus is anti-gun, anti-capitalistic and that he’d be marching with the marginalized every chance he got, were He with us today. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we’d find a Jesus pleased with us because we’ve amassed wealth, pay our taxes, don’t beat our wives, vote Republican and believe that “God helps those that help themselves.” Both of these perspectives are way, way off. I submit that Jesus would not be marching with anyone. Nor would he write letters to the editor or join a cause. He wouldn’t run for office or sign a petition. Jesus would not be doing any of those things.
How do I know? Because He didn’t do any of them when He was here before. Suspending our eschatology for a moment, let’s pretend that Jesus came today in the way he did before. Jesus would be doing one thing; Jesus would be proclaiming the Coming Kingdom of God. Reflecting back to the Bible, Jesus did and would do the following:
- Jesus taught people; sometimes this teaching would take the form of monologue, others dialogue. So, Jesus would teach people today. He’d be with people, talking to them, doing life. He’d always have people around Him, clamoring for His attention, healing, food…anything they could get. At some point, we’d tire of the show because His prattling on about the heart and sin within would get old, and when He stopped being the Savior we wanted, we’d simply kill Him.
- Jesus saved his strongest criticism for the religiously elite. The chief priests, the scribes, teachers, Pharisees…each one of these groups had it all figured out but were not close to God. Their positions, titles and possessions were more important. Second, Jesus would only be around religious people of our day to tell us that we suck. Why? Because to varying degrees, the outside of our cups are perfect, yet inside, we are absolute legalists at best, and gnostics, at worst. We know everything there is to know about God (well, we think), yet the mental gymnastics required to justify our sin would earn us the goldest of gold medals. Because we are better than that guy, we’ve convinced ourselves that we are just fine, or at least, fine enough. Jesus would be absolutely PISSED OFF at me. Because I am the chief of sinners. Again, we’d get sick of Him constantly calling us to a higher level of relationship with Him and His Father, and…we’d kill Him.
Interestingly, Jesus never confronted societal issues in the way that many Christians today do. For every person that believes Jesus would be standing up for marginalized homosexuals in our society, there is a person who believes that Jesus would be participating on “Right to Life” marches. When Jesus did stand for or against something, it was in the context of the Coming Kingdom of God. Matthew 5-7 simply paint a picture of what it will look like. The final judgment offered in Revelation 20-22 is the Kingdom in its fruition. People will not be having sex with whomever they want (“Go and sin no more”). Women will not have “reproductive choice.” Some won’t be wealthy while many are poor and, while there is a wall to keep the riff-raff out, the gate will always be open.
Let’s look at Paul’s example. Here’s a guy that not only told slaves to remain enslaved if they became followers of Christ…but he sent a runaway slave back to his master! This alone has the Paul-Haters apoplectic. Reading the letters of Paul gives us the sense that Paul was focused on the believers of his day living our their faith, in essence, creating the Kingdom, where they were.
When Paul needed to confront sexual sin, he did: “If you want to claim the cross, don’t have sex with your father’s wife.”
When Paul needed to confront the poor being marginalized, he did: “If you want to claim the cross, then your communal meals are for everyone, they’re not just an excuse for you to get hammered.”
This, too, was ALWAYS within the context of the Coming Kingdom. It was always directed at so-called “followers of Christ.” Paul knew that the battle “was not against flesh and blood;” it was one fought in the spiritual realm. Frankly, Paul and Jesus simply had bigger fish to fry than Roman rule over Palestine or the myriad of issues created within a pagan culture. And, when they were addressed, as Jesus did with the Roman coin or Paul when he talked about meat given to idols, it was done with Kingdom Living (render to God what is God’s) in mind.
While America does need the “clear, unambiguous word” from God, it’s primary focus is not about the homosexual agenda. The Word needed is that there is a Kingdom Coming in which God will be be worshiped and proclaimed by all, some of those worshipers will be near to Him, while the proclaimers will be watching from a distance. What American believers need to hear is that we are far from Him, despite our knowledge, attendance records or supposed tight theology. It is my hope and prayer that we jettison our moralistic grandstanding and unreasonable expectations set for non-believers, and instead, focus on God’s call to holiness, both personally and corporately. We should indeed comment sin and call people to repentance. This should begin inside our own hearts, and the walls of our churches.