I was told today that left unchecked I would be dangerous. At first I was angry, but then I realized it’s true.
Eugene Peterson said
Expect hostility when God is at work. And expect it to come from where you least expect it–among the leadership of the religious status quo.
I recently became disheartened and prematurely ended my planned “Much Like the Life Jesus Led” series. Ironically, the thoughts on my heart today are precisely what I had in mind when I set out to write the series.
What would it be like to live much the way Jesus did? It would be dangerous.
Jesus put others before himself, even loving people who were dead-set against him.
He shared freely with those in need.
He even shared freely with Romans who had legal authority to humiliate the nations in submission to them by demanding they carry their packs for a mile, even if the Roman had a donkey to do it for them (in other words, people who weren’t really in need). “Turn the other cheek” and “Walk the extra mile,” according to Erwin McManus, were radical statements made by Jesus to his followers, encouraging them to go beyond what was asked because in this way they remained truly free even in a country oppressed by a foreign ruler.
Jesus relied on God to provide for his needs. He was a skilled worker, yet even with careers we need God. Jesus was in tune with that need and relied on God whole-heartedly, making conversation with God foundational to the direction his life went.
He didn’t store up for himself many material possessions. He lived simply, close to the earth, and close to God and people.
He was loyal to God even before his own family.
He was humble and generous, and served freely. From washing his disciples’ feet after they had entered a house with dusty feet to providing wine for a wedding which had prematurely run out, he blessed people by serving them.
He taught us how to forgive, and to care deeply for others. He said we would be known as his followers if we loved one another.
He lived and taught the laws of love and grace; lived and taught the ways of the God of love and grace.
He reveled a good story, and told many. He enjoyed good food and taught us how to throw a feast in his honor, in order to remember the joy set before us. And he taught us that what we do matters, in this life and the next. That he will return to renew all things, not fry them and make everything in the here and now suddenly meaningless.
He was known as the friend of sinners because he actually lived and moved and had his being in community with hookers and thieves and others the religious community would have nothing to do with. He didn’t just go to a meeting hall once a month and ladle soup out for them, although I imagine that would not be beneath him to do. He actually lived with them. Ate in their homes, assumedly invited them into his own. They were his people, and by that fact they became the best people they were capable of being. In his presence, they could become who God had created them to be, even if outside of his presence they had a lot of baggage that would make them seem unworthy of his company.
He lived and died sacrificially.
He was bold and daring.
And he was dangerous.
None of this is safe. None of this is prestigious or without risk. He loved Judas Iscariot, trusted him as part of his inner circle. Look where that got him. He was ostracized by the religious leaders of his day because of his radical grace. His family thought he was bonkers. He was hated, scorned, and eventually beaten and hung, denied and abandoned by most of his closest companions. And he has the audacity to ask us to take up our crosses and follow him.
Left unchecked, I would be dangerous. It wasn’t said as a compliment. And I’m not sure I deserve to take it as one, because it was said about my potential, not my reality. Left unchecked I do gravitate toward this kind of life, and when I do I find myself blocked in some way or another because of the great danger of it all.
It begs the question: what’s more dangerous? Living Much Like the Life Jesus Led, or choosing not to so as to keep the peace with those who find security in the safety of the system?