Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Jesus Paradigm

5These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: "Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans;
6but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
7"And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'
8"Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.
9"Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts,
10or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support.
11"And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city.
12"As you enter the house, give it your greeting.
13"If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace.
14"Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.
15"Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.

-Matthew 10

Michael Spencer at Jesus Shaped Spirituality writes, concerning the modern pastoral office:

There is an increasing understanding that we’re producing scholars, entrepreneurs, managers, comedians, commentators and promoters rather than shepherds, apostolic leaders and disciple-makers.

What Michael says here is way too on-the-money. And is only the tip of a massive iceberg, I suspect.

The question that is haunting me is this: Do we really get to write off things that Jesus said about what it meant to follow him? I've heard, concerning difficult texts like Matthew 10(with its "don't take any money with you" clause), that it was his particular word for those particular guys, and console ourselves with statements like "Don't worry, not every Christian has to take this literally, after all we need to be balanced?" There is a deep dread that Jesus is saying it's not okay for me to own a $500,000 home and 2 SUVs.

I'd rather not water his words down to some pathetic liberal-activist notion that I'm not allowed to enjoy anything as long as there is suffering in the world. But is it possible that Jesus was not speaking in metaphor at this point, or to an isolated group of people, or speaking in a way that needs to be "interpreted in light of the modern world?" What haunts me is that in Matthew 10 and all over the gospels, Jesus doesn't really leave any room for the paradigm that I see all around me, that I myself am entrenched in, that Christians everywhere swallow without question. But Jesus, over and over again appears to rip to shreds that very paradigm, the addiction to success and consumption. But each time we would prefer to neuter it so that we don't have to feel challenged.

If I dare take this liberty with his words, it's as if he was saying: "My disciples are not consumed with their own needs like prosperity, financial security, a respected profile for themselves and their ministry; these are things that the heathens seek after, because they do not know the gospel. My disciples, on the other hand, will preach that the Kingdom of God is at hand, often at great cost, because they know that everything in their lives is subjected to the gospel."

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