A tDf Ministry Reflection
Jesus was pretty hipster. He served the marginalized, he performed a few jaw dropping miracles, he was disinterested in the allure of politicians and he was downright snarky with religious authorities. But then came a rather catastrophic, public faux pas in which Jesus loudly proclaimed that his followers must ‘eat his flesh and drink his blood.’ At that point a number of people wandered away, muttering something like, ‘Um, yeah, thanks. We will, er….get back to you.’
Most of the men I visit with like Jesus in general. The problem is that Jesus in general, sooner or later, becomes Jesus in particular, saying things that are embarrassing, if not downright costly.
In contemporary America, nowhere is Jesus (and his band of disciples) more embarrassing, than when he opens his mouth and speaks about sex. He said controversial things like, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning ‘made them male and female, and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’
Rather than linger in the weeds of sexuality, it helps to look at things from 30,000 feet in order to understand where things are heading and exactly why Jesus is becoming so embarrassing to so many…..and so costly to others.
Particleboard & Pine
Have you ever seen particleboard? It’s comprised of thousands of small pieces of scrap wood, assembled haphazardly, pressed, and held together, by glue. There is no order, only random chaos. Contrast that with say, a piece of pine within which one can discern a well ordered yet whimsical ‘grain.’ The church, for over 2000 years, has insisted that the world is akin to a pine board, a work of art, both designed and creatively ordered by its Maker. As such, we humans flourish most when living 'with the grain’ of said design. Conversely, we pick up splinters (self-injure) when we disregard, or live 'across the grain' of our design. Or, as a friend once commented: ‘We don’t break God’s laws. We break ourselves against those laws when we pretend that they don’t exist.’
However, the majority of Americans no longer believe that, having become particleboard people, insisting that there is no overarching design, no larger story, no cosmic melody to live within and/or contribute to. Rather, life is purposeless, random and chaotic. As such, we are free to design our own lives without negative or injurious consequence, restrained only by our will, tradition and our lack of creativity.
The reason it will become increasingly costly to be a Christ-follower in late modern America is this: Particleboard people believe that pine board people are not simply wrong, but evil. [Let that sink in for a minute.] Particleboard people believe that pine board people's overtures about divine design are a thinly veiled attempt to impose their will upon, to control, or worse, to injure others.
Not long ago I was conversing with a local clergyman who asserted that I, by being unwilling to endorse one of the (at last count) 57 sexual orientations, must hold hatred for its practitioners. The truth, I explained, is exactly the opposite. To underscore, I asked him, 'When Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, 'Neither do I condemn you’ followed by, 'go and sin no more' did Jesus at that moment, 'hate' her....or did he 'love' her?
My clergy friend was unwilling to answer the question, but the answer to anyone familiar with Jesus is: 'Of course he loved her.’ We learn from Jesus, throughout the New Testament, that both mercy and correction, are love's necessary ingredients and that one without the other is either cruel or indifferent.
Mercy is still celebrated, but the second ingredient of love is becoming increasingly costly for pine board people in a particleboard world.