Imagine a candidate for a leadership position who called out religious people for being prideful, mean-spirited, and unloving. Oh, and by the way, those religious people are you and your friends. Imagine a potential leader who had legions of warriors at his command and chose not to use them to save himself or to free his people from the hand of an outside oppressor. Suppose you had someone with great charisma and the ability to attract large crowds whose campaign slogan is “Love your enemies”.
Would you vote for that person?
The good news for us (which is really the sad news for us) is that this person is not the one we follow as our leader. We follow a Jesus who is always “on our side” when it comes to religious debates. We follow a Jesus who supports military action taken with good intentions. We follow a Jesus who says loving our enemies simply means not killing them and instead having pity on them because they don’t know what we know (namely life with this Jesus).
I have been captivated lately by several separate but eerily related issues. A friend of mine I recently reconnected with leads what seems to be a cross-city ministry in Richmond, VA. She writes a really intriguing blog and has some good questions to ask – questions that seem to be in line with the Jesus we see in the Bible (not the caricature many of us tend to follow). Her latest can be found here: Wendy McCaig. In my Disciple I Bible study class we had a conversation about spiritual gifts and the anemic state of the “body” of Christ known as the church. And then, within my own head and heart, there has been the issue of the United Methodist Church (UMC) decision-making / leadership structure, or the Annual and General Conferences of the UMC.
Wendy writes about the need for unity in the church – real, loving, Christ-centered unity, not political agreement unity. My disciple class discussed how so many in the church body don’t see spiritual gifts and a call to serve God as something pertinent to them — at least not in the way disciples were called and empowered to serve God’s purposes in places like Corinth, Rome, and Asia (see the Book of Acts in the Bible for details). The result of that mindset is a “body” that is not fully functioning, which means we can manage to do some things but we’re not able to do as much as we could or as effectively as we could. And, that lack of unity and “body-effectiveness” will most certainly impact our work in the Annual conferences and General Conference of the UMC. Many clergy and laity alike will find themselves staunchly entrenched in their political positions. Unity will be superficial at best, non-existent at worst. The Spirit will not be able to work powerfully within the Conferences due to our anemia and our inability to let go of our strongly held positions and trust God.
What I begin to realize in these separate but related conversations and thoughts is that most of us wouldn’t vote for Jesus because he wouldn’t support our cause and our lifestyle. Most of us wouldn’t vote for the Jesus of the gospel because he doesn’t try to use his influence to draw the line with others and make them get in step with what we say is right. We’re not ready to give up our life and follow him. We’re not ready to set aside our political positions and follow Christ (because we are, after all, on the biblical/just/orthodox/inclusive side with God in our thinking). We’re more apt to try to influence others by our ability to persuade than we are to influence the process by praying and letting God have control. Yeah, Jesus would not be the best one to lead us as we are. Jesus isn’t a good fit.
Does it seem to you that the “church” (in general and across all lines) is not really being led by Jesus?
Does it seem to you that our way of living is not really in line with the life Jesus would lead us into?
Maybe its just me. And maybe that’s all I can focus on right now is me. Maybe all I could ask of you is to do the same. Will you join me in seriously looking at the Jesus who is revealed to us in Scripture and compare that to the Jesus you say you follow? And, if you find those two to be different, will you join me in seeking God’s help to get it right?
I vote for Jesus – the real Jesus.
Holy high-five to you,