According to many social theories, we create religion as a way to cope with the realities of our lives. And if you spend any time wading around in what is actually taught in many churches, you can see proof of this starting to creep in even in the most Christ-like of places (reap what you sow, follow these simple rules and your life will prosper, etc…).
That guy makes no sense at all.
If we were trying to come up with a system that would make living easier to swallow, Jesus is not the way to go.
He’s not just hard to believe; he’s impossible to reconcile with daily life.
I mean grace sounds nice and all on the surface, but dig deep into the story Jesus is telling us about God — look at the God he actually reveals — we’re just not at all comfortable with that guy.
His way of living doesn’t work.
To pay people who worked 1/8th of the time the same as those who worked an entire day — and to pay them first — really isn’t the way to run a successful business.
To deny ourselves and carry the things or people that make us suffer around with us everyday; no thanks, we need to set boundaries.
To love our enemies and pray for their prosperity; that’s just offensive.
To give all we have and ask nothing in return; to forgive the same person for the same wrong done to us 490 times in a row; to turn the other cheek and carry another’s burden for an extra mile; to put down our weapons because those who believe their weapons give them power end up dying because of them; to simply trust God will take care of us like the birds or flowers …
It’s just too much.
It doesn’t make sense.
The world DOES NOT work this way.
You’re right. It doesn’t. It really doesn’t.
Why is that? Why would we invent a guy who apparently knows nothing about the way things work?
(That’s a rhetorical question for all those wondering.)
Here’s what I feel is true — we couldn’t invent Jesus if we wanted to because, while he seems to say a lot of things that just don’t fit with the way the world works, he seems to know something about the way things SHOULD work.
In the scriptures we are given a picture of our world contrasted with another world; the Kingdom of God. And when the New Testament talks about this other kingdom, it sometimes does so by talking about a whole new creation!
Something other than what we see on a daily basis. It’s the same physical space, but yet operates entirely differently.
As one author says it, this new creation reveals to us that we’ve been flying upside-down this whole time and haven’t even realized it.
We’re not seeing things rightly.
So, yes, Jesus doesn’t make sense. But that’s not because he doesn’t know what is really going on … it’s that he is trying to show us what is real; what is truth; what eternal life looks like.
And wherever we see these things — that’s where new creation has already begun to bloom.
“Thus, if anyone is in the Messiah, there is a new creation! Old things have gone, and look — everything has become new!”
– 2 Corinthians 5:17
To steal from N.T. Wright; Jesus reveals that something new HAS happened and so something new MUST NOW happen in us …
In this new creation, everything IS grace and payment in no way depends on the work you’ve put in.
Sacrificing our own selves for the sake of others IS the way to true contentment, peace and joy as opposed to hoarding for ourselves and seeking our own good.
Loving enemies IS possible, IS the norm and IS the way of peace.
Giving everything away IS acceptable because God is our source and provider; forgiving people infinitely and turning the other cheek when wronged IS the only way to be since holding on to the wrongs we have felt keeps us in chains not those who have wronged us; laying down our weapons IS the only way to peace because this escalation of violence has obviously not worked; to simply trust God to care for us IS the only thing that makes sense because the things we can provide for ourselves are temporary, not eternal …
Our system is perfectly built for the results we are seeing. Jesus may not make sense in that system (kingdom), but thank God that’s not the only kingdom we have been offered!