DayBreaks for 3/22/16 – The Jesus of Parties and Gas Chambers
Having grown up in a very legalistic “church”, there were very strict rules about where one could go and what one could do. One had to be extremely cautious about the kinds of parties that you could attend, about how you dressed, how you wore your hair, your language, the jokes that you would listen to – let alone tell. Don’t get me wrong – I think that there’s something to be said for many, if not all, of those things. We are to be “holy”, i.e., different, set apart, not unholy. We are to be a light set upon a hill – visible and clearly a place of safety and refuge and hope.
But…I have to ask myself the question: how would Jesus have responded to all those rules about “do this but not that, you can’t go there because there may be some bad things happening,” etc.? I think we can take a clue from the kinds of things Jesus did when he was here on the earth: he went to parties. And they weren’t just synagogue socials. He went to parties where there was drinking ( in fact, he and his disciples were accused of being wine guzzlers. At those parties were swindlers who were tax collectors. And, heaven forbid, there were prostitutes there, too. See what I mean – it wasn’t a church potluck!!!!
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think for a moment that Jesus condoned sinful behavior – not at all. He was going to have to pay too great a price for sin to condone it – it was going to become all too personal very quickly. But it didn’t keep him from going to the parties where the lost and lonely were found. In fact, I think that’s exactly why he went to those places – it wasn’t so much to participate in what might have been going on, but to “seek and to save”, to bring sight to those blinded by darkness. In short, the parties were an opportunity for him to be human and to be in contact with humanity where it bleeds the most and to shed a little light into such dark places. Somehow, if Jesus were alive today, I think we might be as surprised and offended at where we might find him as the people in the first century were. And strangely enough, even as he took his disciples with him then, I think he’d take disciples with him today, too…and our reaction to it would probably be the same as that of the “religious folk” of Jesus day – accusatory, just as it was in the first century.
In his theology, Jurgen Moltmann wove together two main themes: God’s presence with us in our suffering and God’s promise of a perfected future. He suggests that if Jesus had lived in Europe during the Third Reich, he likely would have been branded like other Jews and shipped to the gas chambers. Why? Because that’s where humanity was hurting – and perhaps humanity never hurt more than in Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Treblinka or Birkenau. Jesus would have been there because he identified with us in our fallen state. In Jesus, we have definitive proof that God suffers with us – and laughs with us, too.
All of this raises the question: have we become too isolated as God’s people to the point that we don’t “fit in” with anything in our world except for other church people? Jesus, being fully Divine and having the fullness of the Spirit, never gave in to temptation. The risk we face, of course, of going to parties is that we’ll go for the wrong reason – because we want to participate in the sin rather than being the light.
TODAY’S PRAYER: Thank you, God, for sending Jesus to be with us in good times and bad. Thank you that he was able to be “in the world, but not of the world.” Help us to find the way to be faithful representatives for the cross of Jesus in even the darkest corners of the world as well as in our comfortable church halls. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple