The Jesus we encounter in the gospels is fascinating.
He’s usually up to more than we catch at first glance. Speaking with the woman at the well; telling the story of the Good Samaritan; defending the woman caught in adultery; touching and healing the leper; restoring the crippled man in the synagogue. Time and time again, we find Jesus doing all sorts of interesting and surprising things, challenging the status quo.
There’s always more, not less, going on in the stories compiled in the gospels. It’s what’s so intriguing about Jesus. It’s what draws me in as I study, seek, follow and walk with him.
He’s always up to something.
This, of course, is what got him into trouble with the religious leaders of his day – in fact, it got him killed.
Jesus revealed God in a way that had not been seen or imagined before – and encouraged those who dared to follow him to live like-minded. He tilted his disciples toward a direction of kindness rather than hostility; toward justice for the marginalized rather than a prejudice for the powerful; toward gracious truth rather than misinformation or ignorance; toward contagious generosity rather than close-minded fear; toward unbridled hope rather a stifling cynicism; toward self-giving rather than self-protection.
Jesus opened up all kinds of possibilities and a fresh, new way of looking at God.
And it got him killed.
Jesus threatened the exclusivity and religious hierarchy of first century Judaism :: Jews were in, Gentiles were out. End of story.
The Jews were God’s chosen people, and they had rules to follow. If you followed the rules – if you sacrificed correctly and prayed enough and celebrated the festivals and kept yourself clean – you had a chance to receive God’s favor. The tribes and institutions were solidly in place to keep things running smoothly.
But then Jesus came, bringing the fresh word of God’s love, mercy and grace to not just some – but all. The God-man made God’s divine favor accessible to everyone.
He threatened the status quo and it got him killed.
Heresy is any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs.
Ask the wrong questions or take the wrong position – challenge the status quo – and you just may find yourself banned, shunned, burned at the stake or crucified. Tribes and institutions veer toward self-preservation. That’s their trajectory. Whenever anything (or anyone) threatens the status quo, the very structure and existence of institutions are at risk.
When you bring the fresh word, you open yourself up to:
misinterpretation and confusion and anger and ignorance
and fear and jealousy and opinions and evaluation and critique and agendas and
baggage and convictions and projections and
the possibility of
truth and light and hope and repentance and desire and compassion and longing and
revolution and confession and inspiration and comfort and solidarity and salvation
But you don’t get to choose. If you want to open yourself up to even one of these possibilities, you must be willing to surrender the outcome – and risk opening yourself up to all the others.
So the question is, how badly do you want it?
Are you willing to dive into the wonder and joy of exploration, hoping to be surprised with what God is up to? Are you willing to risk being misunderstood, misinterpreted and misquoted in hopes of inspiring and engaging others with a fresh and hopeful word?
What about you? What do you think?
Michael Kimpan is the author of the WayWard follower blog, a site designed to inspire thoughtful conversation and movement among followers of Jesus Christ. Michael worships and serves on staff as the Communications Director at Richwoods Christian Church in Peoria, IL.