If Jesus came to our church today and started questioning the way we do things, would we let him in? I guess we would because we are polite like that, but we probably would give some awkward slide glances and at least have a quiet word at the end. Said ‘in love’, no doubt.
Jesus was a controversial man, a non-violent revolutionary and radical activist who challenged social norms and the religious law, fighting for justice and love. This is the kind of Jesus I can get on board with; it saddens me that we might have reduced him to anything less.
I believe in a world where the Church is at the forefront of action on the things wrong in this world: fighting against homelessness, poverty, inequality, loneliness, climate change, trafficking, gender inequality, discrimination, mental health stigma – and sadly, the list goes on.
I believe the church can be the catalyst for change, it’s the biggest global network of people from all different backgrounds. Yet another part of me feels disenchanted with the Church, it should be something radical, but on a Sunday I can feel we might be talking about a different kind of Jesus to the one who was sought by the leaders of the day for being too dangerous.
I wonder whether it’s the narrative of my faith being reduced down to being God and my personal salvation. Yes, these things are important, don’t get me wrong. It’s important to stay grounded in faith – but we are part of a much bigger picture!
We exist in a world that is desperately in need. A world where all the aforementioned injustices are a daily struggle. A world that is becoming polluted and destroyed directly because of our actions. A world where, in richer countries, we somehow think we are entitled to use exceedingly more resources than needed while overwhelmingly poorer countries suffer the consequences of climate change.
How have we come to a place where no longer are we connected to people – but as Christians we remain close to God? We have become very efficient at the personal relationship part of our faith, and may have forgotten there is a world out there that is broken, a world Jesus told us directly to love.
Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and the second is equally as important; love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
Loving our neighbour means considering where we buy our clothes; are we supporting structures that perpetuate exploitative labour conditions? Loving our neighbour means caring about our environment; being sensible with our lifestyle choices, because our actions are directly affecting people around the world: whose crops might be failing because of changing weather patterns, pollution or contaminated water. Loving our neighbour means considering what we eat; not just following our culture by consuming whatever we feel like. Meat has an enormous impact on the environment, directly contributing more emissions than the whole transport sector. Our privileged lifestyle in the global north, affects the world, it affects people. People Jesus told us to love.
I’m beginning to shift my understanding of what it means to follow Jesus. Jesus passionately loved a world that was broken. The world needs people who believe so much in a better world that they can’t help but enact it now. While some activists could use a little rest, I think some Christians could use a good dose of holy anger at some of the injustices in our world today (Shane Claiborne). I end with this quote by Kaj Munk, martyred by the Nazi Gestapo in 1944:
“What is therefore our task today? Shall I answer: ‘Faith, hope, and love’? That sounds beautiful. But I would say — courage. No, even that is not challenging enough to be the whole truth. Our task today is recklessness. For what we Christians lack is not psychology or literature… we lack a holy rage — the recklessness which comes from the knowledge of God and humanity. The ability to rage when justice lies prostrate in the streets, and when the lie rages across the face of the earth… a holy anger about the things that are wrong in the world. To rage against the ravaging of God’s earth, and the destruction of God’s world. To rage when little children must die of hunger, when the tables of the rich are sagging with food. To rage at the senseless killing of so many against the madness of militaries. To rage at the like that calls the threat of death and the strategy of destruction peace. To rage against complacency. To restlessly seek that recklessness that will challenge and seek to change human history until it conforms to the norms of the Kingdom of God. And remember the signs of the Christian Church have been the Lion, the Lamb, the Dove, and the Fish… but never the chameleon.”