It never ceases to amaze me how often I find myself revisiting what I consider to be the most basic, core principles of Christ’s teachings. You know what I mean, those little token phrases that get tossed around in the church, like how “Jesus loves everyone equally” or how “Jesus was God.” So often, I dismiss those concepts as things I’ve heard before, and don’t give them so much as a second thought. But it seems that God has done some of the most powerful work in my life – or at least, in my brain – with those very concepts that I never bothered to think through completely. Although these sayings that we’ve all heard a million times are very familiar, the implications are vast, and seemingly endless.

The one that really has been ringing loudly in my ears lately is the one about how Jesus calls us to be “in the world, but not of it.” Jesus himself frequently spoke about his kingdom not being of this world, and likewise how if the people questioning him knew his father (who is also from said kingdom), then they would know him. However, a quick read through any gospel will quickly reveal that friend and foe alike had no clue where Jesus was from, where his kingdom was, or why he was there with them in the first place despite his best attempts to explain everything clearly.

I think it goes without saying that there are a million great examples of Jesus demonstrating behavior that not only affirmed his own faith in his claims, but validated them. Curing diseases, controlling nature, and raising people from the dead are just a few. But, what particularly interests me is how he interacted with the culture – the people of the time.

Anyone who had grown up for over 30 years in first-century Nazareth would have had a pretty sound understanding of the cultural norms of that time. Said person would know that people with skin diseases are to be avoided. He would know that when a person has been dead for several days, there is no saving them. This person would understand that disrespecting authority would earn you more than a slap on the wrist.

But, these are exactly the kinds of things that Jesus ignored. He did everything that made people’s jaws drop. He chose love over the norms that their culture had constructed because he knew that love was greater.

This isn’t anything new under the sun, nor is it a huge revelation for most people. But as I said, it’s when I think through the implications of those things that I think God really starts talking to me. With that in mind, I have to wonder about a few things…

Jesus knew what he was doing. He had to know that people were going to react extremely when he turned a deaf ear to everything that was “right” in their time. He had to know that the lowly, mistreated, and ignored people would almost instantly turn their hearts over to him. Likewise, he had to know that he was going to piss off the people who had dedicated their lives to keeping their religious beliefs in check, and their communities in order.

Think about that for a second. It’s easy to say, but put yourself in the shoes of those people. Think about how incredibly offensive Jesus was, right or wrong. I have to wonder if maybe the heated arguments that Jesus got into with the Pharisees weren’t fueled by the fact that he had no respect for their high-and-mighty position in society. Numerous times, we see them coming back to fight with him and try to catch him in a trap. Do you think maybe their pride was a little bent out of shape? I mean, we paint the Pharisees to be such horrible people, but we’d react the same way if some low-life came talking to us like he knew something we didn’t. How would you feel seeing someone standing outside an abortion clinic who, instead of protesting, was doing nothing more than giving hugs to the women who walked in and out? What if he sat on the bench outside the clinic and had a conversation with them? What if he loved them as if they hadn’t done anything wrong? Does that get on your nerves just a little? It probably would.

Now, on the other side of the coin…

Be brutally honest with yourself about your biggest insecurity, your worst fear, or the thing you hate most about your life. Think about the thing that you feel segregates you from the rest of society, or the thing that prevents you from ever taking risks in your life. What if an unsuspecting person on the street, who looked to be nothing special, walked up to you and relieved you of your affliction? How would you feel? Part of me would feel completely thrown off by the fact that someone who appeared to have no money, no education, or no power changed my life in a way that a doctor or psychologist never could! If it were me, I’d probably be asking for a way to repay him and show my gratitude! I’d go around telling everyone about the incredible thing he did for me!

Anyway, like I said before, this is probably nothing that you’ve never heard before, but God’s really been speaking loudly to me about this lately. It’s easy to say that I’m a Christian, but it’s not always easy to do the “right” thing and risk being seen as someone who has no clue how a culture operates. It’s not easy to get off my high horse and serve someone lower on this irrelevant totem pole of society that we’ve arbitrarily constructed. It’s equally as challenging to speak love into situations that 90% of our culture would chastise me for contradicting.


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