Christ, the Light of the World

May you experience the presence of Christ, the Light of the World, everywhere, in everyone, so that hope will abound in your life and the world you live in. There is no corner of the planet where Christ is not. And may you share the light of Christ that is within you with everyone you meet, wherever you are, everyday.

Wilfredo Juan Baez

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Danger of Jesus

The Danger of Jesus
Wilfredo Baez
Mathew 16:13-16 and Matthew 17:1-9

Jesus was a dangerous man. It is what led to his trial, suffering and execution. Jesus wasn’t sent by God on suicide mission. God did not send his son into the world to die for anyone’s sins. That is not what Jesus’ mission was. Jesus was not to redeem and save lost souls for life in some faraway afterlife. Jesus’ mission was salvation alright. It was liberation from injustice, oppression and suffering at the hands of an exploitive and powerful elite. Jesus died because he spoke truth to power; materialistic power. So many who speak truth to power are violently silenced by those in power; they are disenfranchised unless they compromise their values or become ruthless themselves and thus part of the ongoing cycle of violence that prevails in our world .The mission of Jesus is our mission.

What made Jesus so dangerous? What made him a threat to Rome, to the Herods and to the Temple Priesthood? Jesus wasn’t a violent man. He was a peaceful man, compassionate and loving. He was an assertive man speaking up against injustice and breaking the rules that his religion unjustly promoted and enforced. He even broke the commandments when his heart was commanded by God to do something else. He challenged the ways people in power thought, how they controlled others, and how they sought to protect at all costs their positions, power, privilege and profit. Yet Jesus’ morality exceeded those of the most moral Jews of his time, the Pharisees. Jesus sacrificed his own comfort and prosperity for the sake of the rights of the powerless of his society. He did not take up arms for them, but love for them. He stood by their sides, eating with them, touching them, becoming one of them. The non-violent ethos and praxis of Jesus is our ethos and praxis.

Jesus was described as a prophet, a king, a messiah and a son of God but not like the prophets, kings, messiahs and sons of old who were violent, and exploited, enslaved and sought sacrifice from their own people rather than serve them. Moses, Elijah and David, all the prophets and kings of old were violent. They obeyed a controlling and violent God. Moses killed someone. He called violence down upon people in God’s name. Elijah called down death upon the Baal priesthood. David was constantly at war. He plotted the death of Barsheeba’s husband Uriah to cover up for getting her pregnant. He misused his power as King in what would be labeled as sexual harassment if not rape. Jesus provides us with an image of a non-violent God and model of non-violent leadership.

Jesus didn’t seek to lead a violent revolution. He didn’t wield shield, sword and spear or seek to lead an army against the ruling class. He chose to speak truth against corrupt power. His words were not weapons, but tools of truth, love, justice and peace. Jesus chose to follow a God who was like a strong, but loving father, who would share his spiritual blood of compassion rather than exact sacrifice of human or animal life to appease him. Jesus would feel. He would experience anguish and anger, but he would never act violently. Even his act of driving out the money changers in the Temple was an act of assertive, compassion and love for those who were being exploited by the Temple system. The Kingdom Jesus preached about was a peaceable kingdom, a beloved community, a just rule that excluded no one rich or poor as opposed to the exploitive, domination system of the world of his time and ours. The Jesus revolution is our revolution.

Make no mistake; Jesus was a threat to the social order of his time. The Romans weren’t about to kill Jesus because the Jews wanted him to. In fact, they mocked the Jews crucifying Jesus on a cross between thieves with a sign over his head, bleeding under the pressure of the crown of thorns they placed there, the sign saying the King of the Jews. They made it clear to the Jews that the Roman God and the Roman sons of God, the Ceasars had defeated and humiliated the God of the Jews and the sons of that God. He was a threat to Rome because people were following Jesus. He was a threat to the Herods because they were the current Kings of the Jews. They would entertain no rivals. He was a threat to the Temple religion because he was building a new, non-materialist Temple that everyone was welcome in as equals – men and women, Gentiles and Jews. Christians become a threat to the existing social order when the speak truth to justice as Jesus did.

The Christian enterprise then, as it is today, was to follow in the godly way, truth and life exemplified by Jesus. The church is to be a witness of a just economy of power, where compassion, love and forgiveness is the currency. To act otherwise in a church is to be a people of deception rather than of truth, of darkness instead of light and hate in place of love. It is to be a domination system that seeks its own way rather than God’s way. It acts violently against its members in order to maintain control – power, position, privilege and prestige. Human beings unfortunately sacrifice integrity at the altar of feeling safe, insular and familiar. Jesus leads the church in being an agent of positive change in a world that has been corrupted by greed, hatred and delusion.