Recently, I wrote pieces asking God to forgive us for our lack of empathy, compassion and grief over the loss of those who are "other" than us while claiming to be faithful followers of Jesus. Whether it be Michael Brown, Darren Wilson or those recent murders in Chapel Hill, it seems as though there are still two groups of people; those willing to enter and engage with the pain and suffering of those in the community "other" to them and those only concerned with facts to enact revenge loosely labeled "justice."
The comments, emails and conversations are many and I am firmly too conservative and too liberal to the likings of many people; but two comments stood out to me over the last few months:
"This is hate speech at its best."
"This type of fundamentalism is dangerous."
I wondered at the hearts behind these two statements and began to examine my own.
First, I must admit that I am a hater. There are quite a few things that I hate but I've realized particularly detest sin. Briefly, sin is a violation of the purposes that God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) intended. I believe that every person on the planet was created to flourish, work, rule and create. I believe that every person is made in the image of God. From every CEO to each child with Down Syndrome, they are loved deeply by God and He desires a relationship with them so much so that He would send His Son to lay down His life to make that possible. And I hate it when someone is homeless or sexually exploited, murdered or cursed at, or lives for years neglected by those who are supposed to love them. I hate it because it makes me deeply sad that they're not able to experience the abundant life that the God who made them has to offer in Christ. That is the lens through which I see the world, both its beauty and its brokenness. And to act and speak as if I don't believe these things would be hypocritical and lukewarm and I have no desire to be spewed out of the mouth of God. Read Revelation, Chapter 3 in the Bible and you'll see what I mean.
That led to the second portion of my reflection. Am I a fundamentalist? I believe the Bible is the Word of God. And I don't believe that other books speak the words of God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). The books don't start the same, end the same or say the same things in the middle. Thanks to the Core Curriculum at Columbia, I can never say, "all roads lead to the same place" or "every religion says the same thing." It's simply not true. We can pick and choose scriptures to make fake peace and keep false harmony but again, I don't want to be a hypocrite nor disingenuous. To be a follower of Jesus means that I and others like me believe that Jesus is the Son of God, sent to lay down His life that we might receive grace for our sins (the ways we have violated the purposes of God personally and corporately) and we and all of creation be reconciled to God, Our Father. That means that I believe Jesus was not just a prophet, another deity among others to be appeased, great moral compass or Satan's brother. I believe that He is the second in the Trinity, was fully God and fully man on this planet, and is the only Redeemer, Messiah, Savior of the World seated at the Right Hand of the Father poised to come again. Somebody say, Hallelujah and Amen!
I also believe that we are to live, love and be as He was in the world; and that is dangerous because of what Jesus and people who followed Him actually did while He was on Earth. Jesus cast out demons, healed the sick, and fed the homeless. He spoke peace and forgiveness to adulterers and prostituted women. He spoke truth to religious leaders and called out their hypocrisy, greed and oppression of the poor and marginalized. On those things, most folks might say Amen! But what about the Jesus that questioned systems of economics, government, and our idolatry of money, power, and praise from other people? Jesus was sent to bring the kingdom of God into this world. Literally, Heaven came down. The kingdom of the world with all of its abuse, violence, war and oppression and the kingdom of God cannot reign at the same time. It is certainly dangerous for any individual or system in this world to be around committed followers of Jesus because they will certainly be challenged in word, deed and power.
Radical fundamentalism that is founded in the teachings of Jesus and produces grace, forgiveness and reconciliation beyond comprehension is what the world actually needs; and it's that type of person I am certainly trying to be by God's grace.
Look at this. Jesus, a Jewish man chose a disciple who was a tax collector named Matthew. He should have hated Him, but instead He invited him into His inner circle. Matthew was a man who undoubtedly stole from his own people and betrayed his fellow Jews by working for the Roman government. Like Zacchaeus, if there was anyone Jesus should have ostracized, it would be the tax collectors. But He didn't, He did the exact opposite. Similarly, at the scene of Jesus' arrest, approximately 200 soldiers showed up to take Jesus in. In a presumptive act of violence, Peter cuts off the ear of Malcus, one of the soldiers with a sword.
Roman soldiers were violent, abusive and regularly exploited Jewish men and women. If Jesus were to lash out at anyone, it would be these soldiers who were there to deliver Him for crucifixion. But instead of unleashing the multitude and inciting an uprising against the Roman government, Jesus picked up the ear of Malchus and put it back on his head. He then left with the Roman soldiers without argument only requesting that no one else be taken.
Jesus knew who He was, who sent Him, and what He was supposed to do. And, if I'm accused of being a radical fundamentalist who is willing to lay down my life so that the poor, marginalized and oppressed of every race, ethnicity and background know the love of God and have the opportunity to love others out of that amazing grace that only Jesus has to offer - then I am guilty as charged. I will say without apology and hesitation that Jesus is the only Savior King worthy of our praise and allegiance, because there is truly none like Him.
The love of Jesus pursued that Roman soldier, the tax collector, the prostituted woman, and every face in the impoverished multitudes. And that is the same love that pursues pimps and traffickers on International Boulevard in Oakland, the ISIS fighters in the hills of Syria and the abusive mother or father in the home around the corner from where you're reading this post. God loves them just as much as the girls and boys they exploit, the Yazidi women they took and children they take advantage of. That is the same love that invaded my heart when I was 20-years old and I realized I could do nothing more to earn Our Father's love and doing less wouldn't take it away.
I don't know how reminding followers of Jesus to show radical, sacrificial love and generosity to those who are suffering, regardless of their lifestyles like Jesus did and asking for mercy from God for all of those who -- Christian and non-Christian -- don't show love and compassion in the face of unspeakable suffering is hate speech. But I do know that I hate it when we crush the image of God in one another and don't ensure that all of creation can flourish the way that Our Creator intended. And if that makes me a dangerous fundamentalist, then that's a title I will gladly take.
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