"Once our eyes are opened, we cannot pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act." Proverbs 24:12

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.”- William Butler Yeats

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Wanting to Be Radiantly Radical!

As I sit in a world filled with political correctness, and with people trying to be tolerant and accepting of everyone and everything, I've been thinking about how radical Jesus is and was. Jesus always swam upstream. He never went with the flow. 

Everything surrounding Jesus brought dissension to a world that had never encountered anyone like Him.  He didn't waiver.  He remained firm in the Father.

From birth to death, His life was controversial. He intentionally created it to be that way.

Mary, a young virgin girl, was gossiped about and shunned by many in her village because of the child she was carrying in her womb. Joseph considered leaving his betrothed because of the controversy Mary's pregnancy would bring about.

Jesus was God's answer to humanity's desperate need for salvation.  Yet, even as a babe, delivered in the most humble of ways into a world He owned and created, Kings felt threatened by Him.

One of His most radical teachings, especially during that time period was found in Matthew 5:43, "You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..."   The way of life back in the first century was to HATE your enemy, especially if you were religious.  If you despised and killed those that were against God, the sinners, you were righteous.  The most common, and obviously erroneous belief, among the Jews awaiting the Messiah, is that He would come as a warrior, a King that would destroy all the evil of the world.  Jesus debunked that with His "LOVE YOUR ENEMIES" teachings.  When asked, "What is the greatest commandment?", again He had no fear in telling a particular Pharisee that was an expert in the law, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40)   Pretty darn radical, I'd say, especially when they expected to hear something to the effect of slaughter all those that oppose God.

We find many instances where Jesus, in today's world, would be thought of as a trouble maker, or a rebel.  It was scandalous and almost hard to comprehend that a Jew, claiming to be the Son of God, would extend God's Grace and Mercies to Gentiles.  In Acts 15, the Council at Jerusalem argued the fact that if indeed, this was the case, Gentiles would need to be circumcised and follow the law.  It was always about the law with the righteous.  They didn't get it.

Can you imagine the amount frustration that the Apostles might have had?  At this very important meeting, Peter's frustration showed, as he was trying to get them to understand that it was Grace through faith that saved man, not all the laws they kept insisting upon. Peter said, "
God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15:8-11)

So, if they were that frustrated, can you envision Jesus' frustration?  He had traveled the countryside performing miracles, healing the sick, making the lame walk, giving sight to the blind, and yet, the Pharisees and Jews that were threatened by Him, refused to believe who He said He was.  

So, what did Jesus do?  Did he take the PC way and say, "It's okay.  You have your right to your own opinions. We should all just live and let live.  Let's all just get along."  Hec no! He got in their faces and said, "Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!" (John 8:43-45)  Yeah, He was frustrated! He spoke how I speak to my children sometimes in moment of frustration where I say, "What language do I speak in that you do not understand, "pick up your toys!"  If you're a real Mama, I know you know that level of frustration.  Jesus did, too.  He didn't mince words.  In fact, He went further.  He told them that they 'belong to the devil'.  Yikes!  Strong stuff!

The Jews hated the Samaritans because they were half-breeds. They were thought to be unclean. They'd walk from Jerusalem to Jericho, and up the Jordan valley, for days instead of taking the direct route through Samaria, which was only 70 miles, just so they wouldn't have contact with any Samaritans. Jesus went through Samaria, where he ended up meeting the woman at the well. (John 4)

It doesn't get any plainer, folks.  He had a purpose, and He focused on that purpose, disregarding what others may have thought about Him going through 'unclean' territory. Imagine that.  The Son of God, the King of Kings, walking through 'the hood'!

"While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.  Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me." - Mark 14:3-7

"LEAVE HER ALONE!", He said.   He wasn't really rollin' with the punches there, was He?

The righteous that were dining with Jesus could only see dollar signs.  The perfume was worth 300 denarii, more than a year's worth of pay.  They again, just didn't 'get it'.  The sacrifice this woman made to honor who she knew was the Son of God, was so much greater at that moment, that it didn't make her think twice.  She gave not because she wanted something in return, but because she knew He was IT.  HE WAS THE ONE!  Jesus knew this and went against what everyone surrounding Him believed, that money should have gone to the poor.  He saw her heart.  They saw a waste of worldly deeds.

These are just very few examples of how Jesus revolutionized the world He came into with his radical teachings.  A couple of others off of the top of my head was the turning of the tables at the temple and the adulterous woman he saved from stoning.  Which, by the way, He wasn't being tolerant of, He made it clear that sin was not okay, when He told her to go and sin no more.

The Old Testament is filled with laws, laws that eventually showed man that they were not, and are not capable of being good and righteous enough, ever, to the extent of what God is and expects. Paul tells us that "we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  (Romans 3:23)  God knew this, so He sent His Son to stand in the gap.  Jesus is the ONLY way to salvation.  Ever. (John 14:6)Jesus was controversial all the way to the cross. Even after death, they feared Him and there was controversy.

But, Jesus didn't come into the world to candy coat the Father's message.  His words were sharp, radical, and poignant.  Colossans 3:23 tells us that "whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."

Do I live my life like that?  Do I stop and think, "Am I swimming upstream for Jesus?"  Could I, a mere stay-at-home-Mom, make a difference in a world so fallen that it seems at times that there is no turning back?  Is my love for Jesus showing by living a lukewarm life, or am I carrying Jesus' radical character when it comes to standing for the Father?  Do I remember who I am in God?  He not only desires this of me, but He expects it.

A. W. Tozer said, "What I believe about God, is the most important thing about me."   I believe that with all my  heart.  I want to be a fool for Jesus!  I want to be radical in serving Him!  I want to be a branch overflowing with fruit!  I want to be on fire and passionate for Him, filled with His love and Grace!  I want to always be able to forgive and stand up for what is right, even if I am the only one standing! 

But mostly, I want to be the reason He created me, I want to be like Christ.

How about you?

"Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." - Galatians 1:10


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