Jesus was a radical teacher in 1st century Palestine. His message is just as radical for our times. First, and foremost, he brought forward the commandment from Deuteronomy 6:5 to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. And how are we to love God? With all of ourselves! This means that God comes first with us, that we have to set aside the culture’s limitations, our own assumptions and expectations about life, in favor of direct communion with God.
It’s not enough to study and to know the Scriptures, it’s not enough to follow the Law of the Old Testament—even the Pharisees do that, but we have to live the essence of the law which is love. And to do that we have to be in constant communion with the Lord in order to be healed of all that doesn’t belong to us, stuff that our created self was conditioned to believe and to do, so that we might rest in his arms and there find our created purpose.
Jesus didn’t just preach about love or rail against the Pharisees for their lack of love, he modeled that love in everything he did. He regularly communed with God. He let go of his own will in favor of God’s will, even when his own life was at stake. He spent time with, got to know, challenged and loved all different kinds of people, even non-Jews—Samaritans, Romans, tax collectors, prostitutes, the blind and handicapped.
He loved wherever he went. He had integrity wherever he went, no matter whom he was with. When he saw something wrong, he called out the wrong-doers in the temple or he challenged the Pharisees and Scribes for their strict adherence to the letter of the law and their total lack of love. He did not cater to people or cow in front of authorities. He was who he was.
Jesus was in a close walk with God. Everything he did and said came out of that relationship. This is the model he left for us. This is what his teachings add up to. God was in charge of his life. Once we see him wrestling with the devil right after his baptism and once with God in Gethsemane over his fate, but he still affirms God’s will in wrestling with the devil and in going to his death on the cross. He expressed his feeling of abandonment on the cross and in the next breath surrendered his spirit to God.
This is a radical message for us today. In our churches are we even asked to give up the cultural paradigm, our own expectations and assumptions about how life is to go? Are we taught how to attach ourselves to beliefs about Jesus at first so that we can learn through them to attach ourselves to Christ himself? Are we challenged to listen for God’s voice within guiding us every step of the way as Jesus experienced it? Are we asked to set aside our fears and worries and anxieties about life in favor of a radical trust in the Lord? Are we even asked to give up our own ego’s desires in favor of living the life that God has in store for us, where we follow his lead no matter what?
These are the questions that Jesus’ life and teachings asked of the Jews long ago and are still being asked of us today. Christianity has for too long been about beliefs and not about a radical reordering of our lives. It is not enough to believe in the Gospel; we must live the Gospel. It is not enough to preach about Jesus, we must get to know and to love the other person, no matter who he or she is. It is not enough to follow the teaching of the church, we must fulfill our own purpose, the agenda that God implanted in us at our conception for the overall purpose of bringing in God’s kingdom here on earth, each of us helping in our own unique way.
We have to set aside our own agendas, our own expectations, judgments and everything the culture we grew up in taught us about life and put ourselves, our agendas, our to-do list, our jobs, our past and our future, our families and friends and ourselves in Christ’s hands. If you are not radically different from the inside out, if you are still thinking the way you’ve always thought, if you are not healed of guilt and shame, if your beliefs have not evolved as you’ve allowed God to show you who God is, you have only scratched the surface of the life God would have you live.
You are still standing at the gateway to the Life of the Spirit, you have not walked through the narrow gate[Matthew 7:13] leaving every attachment behind except for our commitment to God. This is the radical nature of Jesus’ teaching. When he ascended to heaven, he left us the Holy Spirit to continue his work in us, to continue to call us to the kingdom, to show us how to live, to bring us to the fulfillment of our own purpose. And when we have moved way past the gateway of beliefs into the real life in Christ, we are given the fruit of the Spirit—joy, peace, love, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. And everywhere we go, in everything we say, people experience this fruit in us and want to know how to get there, too. That is the drawing power of the Gospel when it is lived.
So in this time of turmoil in the world, focus on giving your whole self over to God, listening to him in everything you say and do and then following what you are shown. Practice radical trust in the One God and in his Son’s radical teachings. They are true, they are real, they will give you the life you were designed to live.
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I living the Gospel? Do I practice what I preach? Am I able to love, embrace, have patience with, take joy in other people? Or do I just want them to change?
Check out this month’s posting on youtube: “We Aren’t Terrible People”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPe-EMPdAxo
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