"If He were particularised and localised—if, for example, He were made a man with a pale face—then the man of the ebony face would feel that there was a greater distance between Christ and him than between Christ and his white brother." Instead, because the Bible refused to describe Jesus in terms of racial features, his gospel could appeal to all. Only in this way could the Church be a place where the "Caucasian and Mongolian and African sit together at the Lord’s table, and we all think alike of Jesus, and we all feel that He is alike our brother’."
- A pastor in the 1880s. I ask you. The 1880s.
Let’s remember, Jesus was a Jewish man of color, born homeless to an unwed teenager, who spent his formative years as an illegal immigrant before returning to his home country to hang out with twelve men, prostitutes, and socially untouchable tax collectors while he taught a radical social doctrine of equality, love, and forgiveness that included paying taxes, free healthcare, and the sharing of resources within a community.
I’ve got this very same card on my bookshelf.
I am currently obsessed with this reading of what God is saying to us through the cross:
"…the only way I can get it across to you that I like you is by occupying the very worst space that any of you can come up with, a place which you typically think I like to put people in. I don’t. It’s you who put people there, you at your very worst. I’ll occupy that space to show you that I’m not out to get you, that I really do like you. The moment you see that, then you can relax, and trust my goodness. Then you need no longer engage in that awful business of making yourselves good over against, or by comparison with each other. Instead you can relax about being good, and as you relax you will find yourselves becoming something much better, much richer in humanity than you can possibly imagine.”
|—||-James Alison, Jesus the Forgiving Victim; Listening for the Unheard Voice (quoted by Nadia Bolz-Weber on her facebook page)|
Seriously Jesus, you healed the sick and raised the dead and performed wonders and miracles, so we know you have it in you…for God’s sake man, save yourself. If you are the son of God, if you are the messiah, then why on Earth are you allowing yourself to be humiliated like this. Make it stop. You’re embarrassing us. And why are you being such a loser, anyway?
See, we humans tend to be obsessed with winners and losers, insiders and outsiders, good people and bad people. And we can only win if someone else loses. This is the game. Some win, some lose. It’s everywhere.
And that win-lose, good-bad, insider-outsider thing we are all engaged in?…I know this is a little pop-psychology-y but think that it is somehow linked to our own fear of death and loss and fear that we are not loved. So we fight, and compete and argue based on principle. Or we send passive aggressive emails when we feel wronged. Or we talk trash about someone who has hurt us. All of which I have either done or considered doing in just in the past week alone, but none of which will ever fend off loss or convince me I am worth anything in the ways I think they will in the moment.
Which is where Jesus enters the story…annoyingly.
Jesus shows us that these strong at the expense of the weak, rich at the expense of the poor, good at the expense of the bad ways of being together debases everyone involved. The bully is as dehumanized by bullying as the victim.
In our win-lose way of understanding things it would have made a lot more sense for Jesus to have come and be a superhero, kicking ass and taking names. Showing everyone how strong God is by winning at our game.
Instead, at the cross we see that Jesus came and showed us how strong God is by voluntarily losing at our game.
|—||Nadia Bolz-Weber, “Sermon: Losers, Amish, and the Reign of Christ”|
"Nice" in the South is a deadly word. When a Southern woman says something is, "Nice," she’s not offering a compliment. She’s basically saying she’s been taught if you can’t say something good, then don’t say anything at all. But most Southern women I know simply have to say something, so when asked what they think about the sawdust and turkey loaf drizzled with green slime that someone baked for the Church potluck, she will simply say, "It’s nice."
Nice is also a deadly word for our faith. We like nice Jesus, nice disciples, nice God, and a nice church community. We want sweet, nice Jesus spouting sayings worthy of Hallmark cards with puppies and kittens, who never disturbs us. We want the people of God to be silent, smiling, and perfect living in a place where there is not conflict or trouble. Birds sing. Unicorns dance. And everything is nice.
And what we get? A Jesus who said things that upended and disturbed the way things were. The whole rich man in hell and poor leper in heaven scene should make more than a few endowed parishes rolling in the big bucks think twice. Love of riches and power in Jesus’ understanding is almost always an expressway into deep soul trouble. We get a Jesus who made so many people angry we killed him. Think about that. His words were so disturbing, crucifixion seemed like the best option.
“Take up everyone else’s cross,
and everyone else’s wants,
and everyone else’s burdens,
and everyone else’s worries,
and everyone else’s demands,
and everyone else’s unspoken expectations that you just assume they have,
and follow me.