i am busy reading [and really enjoying] Leonard Sweet’s ‘The Bad Habits of Jesus’.
People who know me well, will get that one of the reasons i am really enjoying it is because it is not a wade – the words are straightforward and simple even if the concepts are not.
But today, when i’ve been feeling completely in a funk and when i was in desperate need of some inspiration and belief, i read a chapter from the section titled ‘Jesus could be dangerous’ and it was a really inspiring faith-enducing reminder of so much of what this journey is about…
i wish i could write out the whole thing, but you should really just get hold of the book and so here are a few short extracts to give you a taste:
‘Jesus didn’t want to change just the Temple or the way people did things in Jerusalem. He didn’t want people to change just a few habits, Jesus wanted them to change everything – mind, heart, and soul. He didn’t want to just make a difference in the world: He wanted to make a different world.
How crazy is that?
Jesus imagined a world of untold possibilities for people who were used to being kept in pens of cultural constrictions. It is one thing to return love for love. Jesus invited people to imagine a “turn-of-the-cheek” world where people would return love for hate, forgiveness for betrayal, compassion for rejection, passion for indifference, embrace for neglect.
And Jesus exemplified what He expressed, to the point of putting His life not just on the line but on the cross.’
Also a little bit later:
‘The ‘Nice God’ of therapeutic culture leads one to expect that if I have a need, God needs to meet my need. This is Christianity as Niceanity. For Jesus, God is loving and merciful and true but not necessarily “nice”. The Holy God is dangerous, because the Holy God is Truth. And Jesus had an annoying habit of bringing truth up and taking truth seriously.
Jesus bummed out the intellectuals and theologians of His day because He chilled to intellectual pursuits and theological trappings. Jesus didn’t dream of carrying away the glittering prize of philosophy. The problem with intellectualism is that it makes knowledge, not love, foundational. Or as Albert Camus put it, “An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself.” Jesus, by contrast had a mind and a spirit that watched what God was doing so that He could find ways to help humans join what God was doing. And the truth business God was (and is) in is the relationship business.’
He continues a little later with his faith vs religion engagement:
‘Jesus was dangerous to the religious establishment because He taught a faith, not a religion. Jesus was dangerous to anything that came between us and God, which made Jesus especially dangerous to religious professionals.How often does our “religion” get between us and God? Are we so filled up with religion and all its trappings that there isn’t room for the inpourings of God’s presence and the outpourings of God’s power? Jesus was dangerous to all who see faith not as a walk and a way but as a theological edifice made of marble with solid granite foundations, a superstructure of theological boulders towering high and imposing after centuries of building theological statements.
Jesus was willing to embrace what scares us most in life – disturbances, disruptions, discordance, contradictions, oppositions, uncertainties, unpredictability – which are life’s primary sources of creativity. He even gave His disciples a sacrament of failure, the sacramental shuffle, to keep them moving when they were rejected or dejected – “shake the dust off your feet”. Jesus is the way into a life of truth, not a way out of life’s problems, difficulties, failures, and missteps. Jesus’ way makes it possible to live through life’s difficulties into a testimony, because when we go through them, we deepen our faith, now tested, now proven, now known, and now able to be shared.’
And lastly this bit speaking into the present culture of our time:
‘The church is now even mirroring the culture, more fixated on rights than right. It is hard to speak truth, whether in love or in anger, when the very concept of truth is in crisis. But the church loses its way when it forgets that what it’s about has something to do with truth and that what’s at stake is nothing less than everything, even life itself. The ultimate heresy is the reduction of truth to an opinion. In order to lie, one must be acquainted with the truth. In order to be damned, one must be acquainted with what it means to be saved. In order to be truthful, you have to constantly admit that you can never tell the whole truth – you don’t know it, and you don’t own it.
In fact, something can be partly true but dangerously false, depending on how and when it gets said. But you can move from the shadows into the greater light of truth. John Henry Newman and his close friend Ambrose St. John shared a tombstone with this inscription, written by Newman: “Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem” – “From shadows and images into truth.”
Jesus was a dangerous challenger of the truth and a harsh revealer of the truth of God’s love and mercy in the world. With every healing, every touch, every challenge, and every forgiving word, Jesus revealed the truth of God.
The Light of the World is truth. In a tiny bundle, God wrapped truth in love. Jesus enters our hearts and beckons us to the loftiest heights and beyond the farthest reaches of the human spirit.’
i would highly recommend getting a hold of Leonard Sweet’s ‘The Bad Habits of Jesus: Showing us the way ti live right in a world gone wrong’. Simple, profound, and inspirational…