“The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed . . .” —Jesus (Luke 9.22)
This week, I’d like to begin with something a little different. Are you ready? I want you to listen to an imaginary story.
Once upon a time, there was a God who sang a world into existence. He loved this world and its people. But these people, over time, through no fault of their own, became afraid. They began over time to believe that this God, who had made them, did not like them. They began to believe that He was angry with them. They came to believe that God even hated most of them—not all, but most. Because of these beliefs, they eventually became afraid of each other as well. These people were afraid—very, very afraid. They not only feared this God, but they also feared one another. They looked at each other with suspicion. Days were spent endeavoring to discern whom it was that God hated, so that those who deemed this to be true could hate them, too, and thereby invoke some possible favor from this God.
As fear had turned to hatred, hatred turned to anger, and anger ultimately turned into rage—murderous rage.
It was when this world was at its darkest that this God dreamed up something daring. He would attempt the impossible. Would it work? Some believe that not even this God knew for sure. It would be risky—really risky. Not pretend.
He would come to them in disguise. He would turn their entire social system on its head. He would embrace all, loved and revered, or hated, feared, and scorned alike. He would simply love, radically, inclusively, daringly, and somewhat dangerously. This would unsettle everything, top-down, upside-down. And then it would happen. If it worked the way He planned, they would turn on His threatening love, this love that challenged and threatened to change everything. This social system, remember, was how they even provoked the “favor of God.” Their life, their security, their assurance, what defined them, EVERYTHING for them was bound up in this. How would they respond?
They would label Him as their ultimate enemy. They would let loose their murderous fear on Him. Yet how would He respond? Having loved them, He would love them to the end. And if this worked, He would do one final thing that would pull back the veil and show them all who He really was the whole time. This would change everything, banish the lies, illuminate hearts, and set the world right once again.
Would it work? If only God knew. But they would be worth the risk. They would be worth risking it all.
I want to take a moment and talk about conduits. Jesus believed He would be a conduit of God Himself. Jesus also understood that God would be taking on Their enemy, who would be using humanity, the object of Their love and affection, as his conduit. How do you defeat an enemy that is using your loved ones as a weapon against you? In light of last week’s fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, I’d like to quote, at length, a Christmas sermon of King’s from the winter of 1967:
“I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up against our most bitter opponents and say: ‘We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide by the unjust system, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good, so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and drag us out on some wayside road and leave us half-dead as you beat us, and we will still love you. Send your propaganda agents around the country and make it appear that we are not fit, culturally and otherwise, for integration, but we’ll still love you. But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.’” (Emphasis added.)
You see, from Jesus, King learned to look on his enemies not really as enemies, but simply as victims. They were conduits of the real enemy, held in captivity to a systemic evil, and as someone who was to be won over from the real enemy and the systemic evil, over to the cause of truth. But where exactly could King have discerned this from the Jesus story? I believe this is exactly what the closing week of Jesus’ life was all about.
How do you win your loved ones away from the real enemy and his systemic evil?
They process is very simple, and it’s the same every time.
It’s rooted in something original to the ethics of Jesus—enemy love.
First you provoke the system of evil.
Second, the system responds violently.
Third, you bear that violence, that hatred, that “sin” in your own body, choosing to love nonetheless. Through the power of nonviolence, you pull off the veil of the very system itself, hopefully winning the very ones held captive by that system away from the evil, through empathy, to the cause of the victim. In short, you seek to overcome evil with good.
It is the same in every era that Jesus’ example has been followed. I’ll give three examples.
2. Violence of System
2. Nonviolent Love
(*for more on this, see the presentation A New Way, in the new Life Unlimited series at https://renewedheartministries.com/AudioPresentationSeries.aspx?series=30)
You see the perplexity was never about how we can make an angry God loving again through some kind of appeasement. Rather it was a question of how a loving God could make us good again through becoming the victim of our violence Himself.
“Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.”—Jesus (John 12.31)
1.Remember the cross, to the original followers of Jesus, was viewed as something Jesus did for them, but never instead of them. They believed that they too were called to embrace Jesus’ way [a cross] of putting the world right again, forming human society once more into the image of love rather than fear, hatred, and violence. In light of this reality, ponder the following texts:
John 18.11: Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
Mark 10.38: Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized…”
Luke 9.23-24: Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”
Romans 16.20: The God of peace will shortly crush Satan under your feet.
2.Go back and prayerfully re-read this entire eSight. Write down any thoughts, questions, insights, or perplexities that surface as you, through Jesus, meditate on the cross. Do this not as a means of changing God, but as a means of changing the world.
3.Share with your HeartGroup this week what you have written down, respectfully and openly encouraging one another to keep following this Jesus and way of healing the world. Remember, “if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire. Do you not know that you (plural, as a HeartGroup) are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you (as a group)?” – Paul (1 Corinthians 3.12-16)
Remember, Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but intended that the world, through Him, might by saved. Wherever this finds you, keep living in love, loving like Christ, until the only world that remains is a world where love reigns.
I love you guys.
I’ll see you next week.