Jesus’ Demeanor

Looking at the stories of the prophets, I realized that these were some fiercely devoted guys. Some personally slew people who they saw as enemies of God, some called down lightening to smite enemies of God, and some called for people to come down with a disease. Looking at the stories of King David, he had a serious body count adding up and it wasn’t limited to enemies. In comparison, Jesus might seem like something of a weakling for not having any blood on his hands – but then again, that’s why he’s the savior.

So when I talk about Jesus’ example in his public ministry, people often feel the need to defend his rather pacifistic demeanor by bringing up the cleansing of the temple as proof that in his righteous anger he was a serious threat. They might also bring up the verse that says that heaven’s army of angels are at his order – if he wanted to he could have called them down and destroyed the Romans but he didn’t because of some unknown reason for his ways are higher than ours.

It doesn’t matter than in other stories when the crowed wanted to make Jesus king that he would just slip away. It doesn’t matter that when one of the disciples said “Hey! This town just disrespected you! Let’s show them who you really are and call down fire from heaven to teach them a lesson!” that Jesus said “No, let’s just move on to the next town instead.” It doesn’t matter that Jesus annoyed the religious leaders of his day by going to party with the biggest sinners of his day.

This is Jesus – the Lord of lords and the King of kings! He is the son of God! The same God that taught Egypt a thing or two when He sent the ten plagues upon them and even then He hadn’t finished using the Israelites as implements of his judgement on the Canaanites. Surely he’s a chip off of the old block? Certainly the apple didn’t fall far from the tree!

And yet … Jesus could have raised an army of men – but he attracted crowds including women. Jesus could have joined the rebels and helped them to resist to the Romans – but he didn’t offer them any resistance when he was arrested, tried, beaten, or crucified. To our way of thinking, to prove one’s toughness, it is necessary to beat up the strongest or baddest guy in the place so that everyone else will know that it would be unwise to challenge us. But Jesus’ plan is this: “I know that my father has given me complete authority to do anything I want, but I lay it down. I won’t call for fire to destroy your town or lightening to take your life. I will control myself and limit myself for your sake.” That’s Jesus nine times out of ten.

It must be our own way of thinking that is the flaw – that self-control and limitation is weakness and fighting and outpouring of anger is strength. We point to the cleansing of the temple as if that’s how Jesus really, truly was and in all the instances where he wasn’t like that on the outside, that’s something like what was going on inside. I just find it an odd thing to say: “Jesus’ passion for the temple burns when he cleanses it … but he also prophesied that in three days not a stone will be standing…” Cleaning out the money changers today does not prevent them from returning tomorrow or the day after. Is it the temple or something else that he’s zealous for?

You see, every generation of humanity has happened to interpret Jesus through their own understanding. Different generations had different pieces of information. We need to consider what pieces are missing from the picture of Jesus and to do our best not to try to fill in the missing pieces with our own ideas about what should be there based upon what we can see.

To The Journey

Exactly ten years ago, I started TheUnmaskedAvenger. I eventually ran out of things to say and stopped blogging. Two years ago, I returned to it; this time it was just for me. It is amazing to see how many of the things I’ve said have struck a chord with others. Church can be an amazingly wonderful mountain-top experience with a great view of the bright sun; and church can be a dark, deep valley with steep sides. Church can make beautiful music; and it can make a noisy din that vaguely resembles music. Church can be a close-knit family of supportive brothers and sisters in tough times; and it can be an isolated group of insiders who routinely exclude others who aren’t on the same page. It can be anything and everything; both good and bad.

The church I remember from when I was little is totally different than the one I know now. And I’m a different person, because of it. I’ve weathered quite a few storms over the years. I had to figure out a lot for myself, but thankfully other bloggers were seing some of the same issues that I had. So I knew that I wasn’t alone and I felt like that there others out there who understood. I had to learn to learn a lot of things. I learned to stand my ground, I learned to defend my beliefs and I learned to hold fast to them when the storms raged at their fiercest.

I would have loved for my ground to have been the same ground as the church’s; but it didn’t turn out that way. I’ve attended a lot of churches and they’ve taught me a lot, but it wasn’t always what was right or best for me. In general, I still feel somewhat let-down by church, and that’s probably my ‘stuck on the seemingly endless plateau’ experience talking at the moment. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective, compared to the valley, the plateau is a mountain and so I should celebrate the view that I do have.

My current church is doing a series on Ruth and I’m learning that she’s not the – well, actually I don’t remember what my former pastors would have said about her probably because she’s usually mentioned in passing; Like, “Ruth is one of the women mentioned in the ancestry of Jesus; and so is Rahab the harlot, Bathsheba the wife of Uriah, and Tamar whose story shall not be named.” Being listed among ‘the harlot’, ‘the adulteress’, ‘the deceiver’, it doesn’t suggest that Ruth ‘the foreigner’ or any of the other women are of upstanding moral character; but they were as much as was possible for the times they lived in. Not only that, but there’s a chance to study something called Lectio Divina and it seems absolutely fascinating. I think that some of my problem is that I’m expecting the church of my youth – one that was built around me, my needs, what I wanted, and anticipated the sort of things I’d like. This church isn’t like that and that’s what makes it difficult to adjust to. But so long as they’re willing to meet me half-way, that’s better than most churches in this area. So I think we’ll do just fine for now as long as they let me listen to my MP3 player so that I can enjoy my music while they’re enjoying their own.

I don’t know what the next ten years will have in store for me. I expect there’ll be times when I’m further up the mountain or have fallen into the valley, but blogging helps me climb my way through it all, the thick of it and the thin of it. I’m grateful for each and every one of you who have chosen to join along in the adventure, to encourage me, to keep me honest, to challenge my perspective, and to share your stories. For facing whatever is in store, faith, hope, and love will see us through – this year, the next, and ten years from now.

Church of One

Sometimes I don’t know where I fit in Christianity. It’s been that way for awhile now. As a single young woman who is barely a twenty-something, I’m too old for the college-age group. I’m not eligible for the other groups and I don’t really fit anywhere. It’s been the same problem in the last three or four churches … I’m a group of one.

I’ve heard the sermons over and over again ‘just in case’ God will introduce ‘the one’ in the near future, I know what role I’m expected to fill and what Bible verses support that teaching. Just as Christ loves the Church, my future husband is supposed to love me. Christ = Husband. Church = Wife.

That means somewhere out there, there’s a Christ who doesn’t have a Church. A Christ that’s supposed to be the initator of our relationship that’s doing anything but what he’s supposed to be doing. Sometimes the way this teaching is taught, the Church is supposed to call her Christ lord and Jesus Christ Lord. My Lord, where is my lord?

Perhaps you can see the problem I have with this whole teaching. It puts me in a position where I have no say over anything. As a single woman, I have the audacity to tell God that his plan doesn’t work for me. That I don’t want to be a wife just yet, that I don’t want to have a lord just yet, and that I don’t want to be that Church any longer.

That’s why I think they don’t know what to do with single people. After all, Paul was married to his ministry, but Scripture has no Paulettes. When they talk about singleness being a gift, they always emphasize “but it’s better to marry, let they burn with passion.” Which is why there aren’t any groups aimed at encouraging single people to take things one day at a time, follow God for that day, and to let everything else fall into place. No, the idea seems to be to create family outings (and invite the singles so that they have an example of proper Christian families), center mens and womens groups on being fathers and mothers (and invite the singles so that they have lots of good helpful advice when they get started), and do nothing but preach about the greatness of marriage being just like being a Christian. Marriages are okay, but Christian marriages are a far holier thing that God expects of everyone.

Something they’re doing must be working really well … I can testify that the last four churches I attended had no one else my age to hear these messages. Is it possible that the Church has it all wrong? That they are sending the wrong message and cannot see the dozens, the hundreds, and the countless thousands that leave the church every day because they no longer fit? What if the reverse message, that Jesus came to seek and save the lost … not for the lost to be saved they need to seek the church is what really needs to be heard. One thing I do know, the longer they keep up this teaching, the more people who don’t fit will flee from it. Quite possibly, I’ll be among them wandering and wondering just where I fit … where I was meant to belong.