Contrary to Hollywood’s belief, I don’t think Jesus looked like Jim Caviezel. And, contrary to Kanye West and his video Jesus Walks, I don’t think Jesus is anything like Kanye West (though Jesus probably looked more like Kanye than Jim). Somewhere along the way, we turned Jesus into a beautiful blonde locked, blue-eyed, American Idol. He was in fact not American. He was not a product of western thought. He was a middle-eastern man, which is why we have over the years lost the beauty of his Jewish ascent and his Eastern practices.
Western Christians love boxes. We love to put Jesus in the box. We love to put the Bible in a box, hence our unhealthy infatuation with systematic theology. We like to put our community in boxes. We put people in boxes because our narcissism can’t handle something that is not us, or because we feel the need to label. It’s all too simple. Unfortunately, it’s not Jesus. As Augustine put it, “If you cannot understand it, it’s not God.” Jesus takes all of our boxes and destroys them. This was the beauty of the Kingdom of God. It was upside down. Jesus would never have fit into our box building games.
Ever since Gutenberg made in 1450 and Luther translated the Bible into his common language of German, Christianity has progressed primarily a faith of individuals. At that point, there was no longer any need of public readings or liturgy, everything I needed I could get on my own. While this was a good thing, Christianity was always a public affair. Most of the New Testament was written to communities. The book Acts describes the intensity of their communal life. Jesus lived his life in community with the twelve. The whole Jewish lifestyle was built upon this sense of community. For Jewish people, salvation wasn’t an individual thing as my Evangelical church education taught, salvation was a communal affair. When we crown our Theologians, Missionaries, Pastors for their knowledge and service, Jesus was to busy crowning the homeless, the sick and those who didn’t belong in the community. Not the pinnacles of faith. Jesus always moved down the ladder. For Jesus, sanctification and holiness was not determined by how much you knew, or by how popular you were, for him it was about inviting those who were not included. Jesus wanted these people to eat with them, to pray with them and to celebrate with them.
Jesus knew that spirituality didn’t have to deal with Bible memorization (although by Rabbinic law, Jesus had the whole Hebrew Scriptures memorized) or with who could move themselves up the chains as a Rabbi, as a Pharisee, or as a Zealot. For Jesus, true spirituality was about moving down. It was about letting go. For him, it wasn’t about your qualifications as a Biblical Scholar, it’s about your ability to love, to forgive, to make peace, it was broken people transforming their pain, instead of breaking more people. This was the politics of Jesus, politics that are driven not by power, but by peace, love, forgiveness, reconciliation and helping others deal with their pain. Something that Western Christianity has really struggled with. People who are not us, our group, our beliefs, people with pain do not fit in our box, because like Jesus, they destroy them. The invitation of these people into our lives will not be popular, but it draws us to the heart of Jesus, who celebrated these people, this type of Kingdom.