Are followers of Jesus called to become a part of communities that are counter to the cultures we are a part of?
I have taken you on a tour to a broad range of ways that some followers of Jesus are experimental communities of mutual care that are often more sustainable environmentally and economically. As we race towards Palm Sunday 2012 I invite you into a conversation. As followers of Jesus are we called to become a part of communities that are counter to the cultures we are a part of? Is it possible that Jesus came to do more than change our hearts? Is it possible that Jesus also came to pull down empires, power and wealth and lift up the powerless? Is it possible that our culture is dead wrong that we will never find the good life of God by seeking life but only in losing life in service to God and others?
“Jesus announced that God’s long-awaited kingdom had finally arrived in his own person. John Howard Yoder, in his classic The Politics of Jesus, persuasively argues that Jesus wasn’t only the inaugurator of God’s new order, but also the realization of everything Jubilee promised for the poor and the marginalized in ancient Israel.
If you want to see what the shalom future of God looks like, look at Jesus. Every time we see Jesus heal the disabled, open the eyes of the blind, hug the kids, feed the hungry, set the possessed free, forgive the sinner and raise the dead, we are shown a glimpse of what God’s purposes are for the human future.” In Jesus, God’s new order has actually broken into our troubled world. We are invited to be a part of this good news and follow Jesus by passionately living into that new world that is already here; not just with our spiritual lives but with our entire lives.
Jesus not only demonstrated the compassion of God’s new order in all that he did, but also embodied the right-side-up values of that order in an upside-down world. One of the first things Jesus did was form a new community by inviting his disciples to begin to live out these radical new values as well. Jesus intentionally created a new counter-cultural community to provide a living, breathing example of the right-side-up aspirations and values of God’s new order in a world given to other dreams. Those first disciples discovered that following Jesus was call to a whole-life faith that would change their lives spiritually, morally and culturally.
Let me clarify something. When we join this movement, we are not building God’s new order on earth through our own efforts. We are not advocating a post-millennial eschatology. But through the life, death and resurrection of Christ, God is actively at work in our world today through the mustard seed. I believe God wants to use our ordinary lives in ways we have never imagined to give expression to God’s new order, in anticipation of that great homecoming day when all things will be made new.
Remember that this new mustard seed empire was not ushered in with pomp and circumstance. As you know, it had its origins with a baby born in a cow stall in undistinguished village in the Roman Empire during the first century AD. When Jesus began teaching, he announced the astonishing news that his new empire had arrived. He made clear that it would be unlike any empire the world had ever seen. It came on a donkey’s back. Its “imperial council” was comprised of a handful of unemployed fisherman, a couple of IRS agents, a prostitute and some other hangers-on. Jesus demonstrated how to wield his imperial power by washing feet, telling stories and playing with kids. Jesus’ empire is based on the absurd values that the last should be first, losers are winners and the most influential in this empire should clean the toilets.
Jesus insisted that those who are a part of his empire shouldn’t worry about finances, but simply trust God. The resources to run this empire were basins, towels, and any left over lunches. This empire also developed a reputation for constant partying. What was even more concerning is that they were almost always found to be partying with the wrong kind of people.
Members of this empire are instructed to love their enemies, forgive their friends, always give twice as much as people ask of them and never pursue power or position. Seriously, is this any way to run an empire? Imagine what would happen if you ran a political, economic or even religious institution with these bizarre values. Clearly, it wouldn’t have much of a future. It might even get the leader assassinated.” The New Conspirators: Creating the Future One Mustard Seed at a Time pgs. 119-120
Seriously, would it really be possible to be a part of such a counter cultural movement by only gathering in a building two hours a week? I want to hear your views. Write today!
John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmanns, 1972), p. #.
Tom Sine, The Mustard Seed Conspiracy (Waco, Tex.: IVP, 1981), p. 101.