Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Politically Incorrect Messiah

He never was politically correct.

Joel Kontinen

If Jesus had been politically correct, He would never have overturned the tables of the money changers and driven out all who were buying and selling in the temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 21:12).

However, He had a mission and He refused to be sidetracked by public opinion. In contrast, from an early age His overwhelming desire was to carry out His Father's mission.

Humanly speaking, this prompted Him to do things that many religious people would think were beneath the dignity of a holy prophet. Thus, He was not afraid of befriending tax collectors, some of whom were notorious for collecting more taxes than Rome had decreed, and even eating with them. Moreover, at times He associated with questionable characters that the Jewish religious leaders would curtly have dismissed as sinners.

He rejected status symbols and did not even own a home. In a culture where status symbols were as important as they are in ours, He chose to identify with the poor and the peacemakers, riding a donkey instead of a horse, when He came to Jerusalem on His final visit before the Passion that forever changed history.

He chose His inner circle of followers from among the common people: fishermen, a tax collector and others, who could hardly boast of their credentials.

When it came to observing ritual purity, for instance, by washing before a meal, and observing the Sabbath meticulously, He occasionally rejected the man-made additions to the Mosaic Law. He taught that it was more important to help the sick, the needy and the hungry even on a holy day, pointing out that people and their needs mattered more than principles, rules and traditions.

He rebuked the self-righteous who were too holy to be seen in the same room with a sinner, and even corrected His chosen disciples James and John for their selfish ambition (i.e. for graving for places of authority in the coming Kingdom).

He turned some concepts upside down. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37), He illustrated what the brotherhood of all men meant by making a member of a mixed-race the hero of the story.

He taught that the first would be last and the last first, and used a child as an example of how we should trust God. Moreover, He became the ultimate model of servanthood by washing His disciples’ feet.

Yet, He did not reject religious observance as such. He attended the synagogue and even accepted the Jewish ritual baptism that John the Baptist performed in the Jordan. In the Sermon on the Mount, He taught that not an iota (the Greek rendering of jod, the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet) would disappear from God’s Word before the end of the world:

“For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18, Berean Study Bible).

He strongly endorsed the traditional view of marriage and spoke against divorce. He did not judge sinners but He did not condone sin, either. “Go and sin no more,” He told a woman caught in adultery (John 8:11).

The Gospel Jesus proclaimed differs a lot from what we think Christianity means. Instead of promising status and wealth, He told His followers that they were called to bear their cross and bury their selfish ambitions.