Jesus the extremist?
"When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind."
(Jesus' own family's reaction to his teachings) Mark 3:21
The key to understanding the life and teachings of Jesus is to understand that he was extremist radical, bent on altering every aspect of culture and society. As you read that last statement, you may be thinking that I am describing the newest "Terrorist of the moment", but I am describing the mission of Jesus of Nazareth.
He was an extremist. His ethic of love as a response to the real world problems of violence, abuse, oppression, pain and suffering appears at the far end of our reality. His insistance on love, even in the face of incredible discrimination, humiliation, and dehumanization is, in fact, an extremist position. Historically, the Church has attempted to make him more of a centrist. We desire a tamer, more politically palatable Jesus. That Jesus is sellable and acceptable, and insidiously controllable.
Jesus is radical. Not reckless nor ruthless, but radical. The English word we use for radical comes from the concept of "root". To be radical is to assert the most basic truths and refuse to compromise on these things. This is what Jesus said and lived continuously. Historically, the Church has wanted a more democratically leaning, consensus building Jesus. That Jesus often goes along with our agenda rather than relentlessly inviting us towards God's.
Today, I find that the people of God behave more like Jesus' biological family than his authentic spiritual family. We too seek to rush in and provide "damage control" regarding the things that he said and did. We are anxious as to not serve a Jesus that is extreme or radical. We desire to serve a more docile and impotent Jesus who seemingly reflects our personal and cultural values, rather that the convicting, counter-cultural and life changing principles that he lived and died for.
Today, refuse to apologize for Jesus. Refuse to make Jesus into what you, your community, or your culture desires, but see Jesus as he is. If He says to:
love your enemies,
sacrifice for those who hate you,
give your hard earned money to the less fortunate,
Make peace in the midst of violence
Love him above all else,
Don't filter these statements through your political and theological filters to domesticate Jesus. Allow yourself to glimpse the revolutionary Jesus that is worth worshiping.
May God bless you,
Pastor M Traylor