I don’t how we are to do it, but me must. We must unlearn the lessons we’ve learned; We must undo the doings of rationalization, of justification; We must take a long second look in the mind’s dark mirror; peer humbly in hindsight down the hall of history; We must divest in conventional wisdom and our blind reliance on it; We must--it is absolutely crucial--revisit, and consider reconsidering the truths we hold self-evident; We must look back at ourselves and ask if the principles we endorse, affirm and approve of are in the character of God. We must look to Jesus.

It is dangerous personal work. Often unclear. It is confrontational. It’s sacrificial.

I was talking with a new friend recently about all the discoveries of science, all the new information constantly surfacing for the first time regarding the history of the earth and the implications of the findings. And somewhere amidst the conversation he asked me how it made me feel. I was confused for a moment until he qualified his question: How does it feel, he asked, to be challenging the truths that your parents handed to you, that possibly even the church handed you? Isn’t that unsettling?

Socrates in court after he had been found guilty of heresy (threatening the established religion) and sedition (threatening the state) told the jury in his defense that the unexamined life was not worth living. Interesting. Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians pleaded that we must examine ourselves and see whether we are in the faith; to test ourselves. Jesus: his compassionate poise; his preference for patient dialogue; his nonviolence; his acceptance and love for all people, his preference for the "Them"; Jesus always on the moral high ground--choosing goodness before ever fighting to establish his rightness; Jesus who took a beating when he didn’t deserve it; Jesus who loved those beating him--even while they were beating him; Jesus who chose to die at the hands of those who killed him--for those very people who killed him. This is Jesus.

Does it seem at all odd or contradictory that Christian principles need be defended with guns, war or policing? Does it strike you strange that Christians should put criminals to death? Killing them? Are we Christians today conflicted over our often nonchalant endorsement/employment of such methods of social sanitation? Or how about: Does it strike you Christ-like that he would seek to change others lifestyles (unbecoming as they may be) through the mandate of law, ostracisation, or punishment? Does that work? Does that sound like the Way?

Jesus’ applies a kind of irrationality to all these questions. He does. It’s unavoidable if you read him. His Way is so totally alien to mine. And it’s that very irrationality that’s become so very rational to me in the past few years. Paul follows up his previous statement asking, “Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you?” Or it’s like he’s asking if we can see it; if we can sense these strange new realities growing within us and without fear. Realities completely foreign to our thinking. A love rationale built out of and for itself--Love--not out of self interest, societal self defense, protection, or preemption-- the preventative moralality we created for our fear. It seems strange to me that we Christians should quietly permit such things; that we uphold, endorse and legislate the laws we do, while supposing to follow Christ. If our task as Christians is to continually act more and more like Christ; if our primary aim is conformation with him--are we willing to accept the confrontation our new lives might invite? The danger?

Because if we’re reading the same Gospel, the good news has the propensity of becoming very bad news as I see so many of my things, my reasons, my ideological rationality, my social/political/economic possessions laid to the chopping block. What does a Love rationale do to my view of the criminal? What about how we punish? What happens to my reasons for going to war? What happens to my money?

What is Christ actually suggesting we do? Is He serious? Am I serious about this? And what if I am?

"So how does it feel?"

My friend was still waiting for my answer. "It feels great." I told him. And it does. It this kind of personal work, the sacrifice, and the confrontation involved with it that finally has brought real significance, meaning, responsibility and risk to Christ's message. But I suppose the Way has been this way all along.


We could talk about Jesus here. We could talk about him in the past tense and how he was back then. And there’d be so much to say. Interesting things. We could start by talking about how he took a beating. And we could talk all day of it. On more than one occasion He took a really bad beating, quietly and uncombatively. Say things we could about how he took these beatings and how he never--not even once--deserved it. We know of a few of these occasions. There are surely many more. But what else? If we talked about him someone should probably say something about how they mocked and ridiculed him, not just on the cross, but definitely before that also. Of course there were his dozen or so followers and there were the masses that would come together to hear him speak. This would account for one side of the conversation of that day. But what about the stuff Jesus didn’t hear? If we’re going to talk about Jesus someone should probably say something about all the somethings said that no one wrote down, no one confronted, no one noticed, heard, defended or dealt with. No one remembers that stuff but come on, let’s consider: the bitter whispering from the corner of the room, heads off huddled in the distance, cornered glances across the dinner table, the poisonous rumors, words with four letters, with a single finger, behind his back or a closed door. The inaudible, or unrecorded. The unmentioned. The proverbial beatings.

Oh and if we have room, someone could talk about that one time--that moment in the garden. Peter cuts off the aggressor’s ear but Jesus stops him.

Apparently a creative attempt, but not quite what Jesus was looking for from you Peter. Nice try, but it's not the Way.

Jesus puts the guys ear back on.


And then we could talk about Jesus here, now--on the other side of the cross. The beatings over, the bodies buried, risen, and removed from us, Many of the details lost. Charlton Heston’s awards now won. Across the timeline things here are different. Here Jesus materialization is mysterious. Here the unseen counts for much. But yet much remains the same: Here He is still slandered and ridiculed; here the name of Jesus still conjures up just as much compassion as does it contempt. For someone who much of the world considers to be just an historical figure--His name is continually being unearthed, dragged through the dirt and spit on. Jesus is still taking a beating both from his detractors and because of His followers who keep co-opting His name in causes Jesus never endorsed--a different kind of damage.

But think of it. What do we gather from the fact that both then and now--from both sides of the cross--Jesus seems to do nothing in the cause of self-defense? What is He telling us with this? Think some more of it. Think of all the opportunities He was given on earth to stand up and correct the misconceptions about Him. Think of all the times he could have discredited the criticisms against Him. Oh and don’t forget, the Man was an absolutely brilliant philosopher, the most tactical debater in history, an eloquent speaker and a master of the Scriptures. Even in the little we understand contextually of his time we’re coming to learn more and more that his seemingly commonplace words were often completely loaded with wit and saturated in cultural nuance. It’s like with every word He spoke He was actually saying so much more. The Bible is subversive in this way.

Jesus, of course, was a genius.

So why not defend himself? He was capable. He was right to.

If we are to take the teaching of Jesus seriously and if we’re to consider all He did and said, then we must also be considering of those things which He did not do and did not say. If the Bible is half as dangerous a book as is said it is, then there must be a level of danger and risk involved. But what if we’ve confused that danger with some things completely unintended, enacting actions Jesus never dreamed we’d associate with His vision? What would Jesus say to our efforts at defending Him? Would he endorse our incessant protectionism? Is that the Way? What would Jesus think of our physical action taken in self-defense? Would he affirm our rationalizations? When you read the Scriptures do you see a Jesus who encourages His followers to take up arms, fight with fists, or prove we’re right? In all his life and words teach do we ever see even one example to uphold the acrimonious, vitriolic actions we enact in the name of God?

Jesus never asked us to defend him. It’s not the Way. Jesus just put the man’s ear back on.

And He invites us to do the same.