Throughout this semester we have been trying to establish that Jesus is someone worth following not simply because He claimed to be God or because the Bible tells us that we should, but because what Jesus came to do was to move the world back towards what it was created to be. Jesus came to turn things upside down. He didn’t come to do things the way the world is used to doing things.
Jesus came for this: equality, fairness, grace, forgiveness, love. He came into an imperfect world yet didn’t cast it aside due to its imperfections, but instead showed a way to remove the imperfections. And these imperfections aren’t removed by a strict moral code or a list of rules and laws to be followed, but instead by one single command: Love One Another. He said, “Love one another. In the same way that I have loved you, love one another.” (John 13:34). Then he carried a cross that the world was meant to bear and took on the punishment for these imperfections so that we could all arise with Him perfect in the eyes of God. He established a Kingdom, not with an army or wealth, but by literally dying and resurrecting for the whole world to see. When someone predicts their own death and resurrection and then pulls it off, it’s safe to say that they’re probably someone worth following.
But here we are. Jesus has died and resurrected. The miraculous and awe has died down a bit, the air has stilled, and we’re all stuck with this one question… “What now?”
That’s exactly where the disciples were at in Acts chapter 1. Everyone, including the disciples thought that the Messiah would come and not only restore Israel as its own nation, but to finally place Israel as the one on top! It was their turn to be the Romans, the Greeks, the Persians. No more would they be the subjects of anyone else. They would be the ones ruling. That’s why the disciples ask Jesus so much about who was going to get which job in this new Kingdom. And imagine the kind of ruler Jesus could be with all the powerful, miraculous things He could do. This is what they were expecting. This is what they had been hoping for. This was going to be their salvation.
But at this point in the story, it has become apparent to the disciples that this is not what Jesus is about. Just like with everything else, Jesus and the Kingdom of God is the exact opposite of what they were expecting. It wasn’t about ruling and controlling others, it was about serving and helping others. It wasn’t about power and respect, it was about grace and love.
Just like how Jesus said they would have to lose their lives to save them, so they would have to lose their dreams of their kingdom in order to gain the dreams of the true Kingdom.
So, now what?
What does this mean for us? How do we fit into all of this and what does Christ’s death and resurrection really mean for us? Well, Paul sums it up beautifully when he says,
“Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them…This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!…[Now] we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 17, 20-21)
We are to do exactly what Christ commanded the disciples to do: Love One Another. But not just merely love them how we usually love others, but to love others the way Jesus loved others. And how much did Jesus love us? He died on our behave. That’s a lot of love.
But here’s the thing, Jesus loves everyone that way. We don’t always struggle to think of how Jesus loves us that way, but we don’t as easy attribute that love to others.
“Oh, I love others. I love my family and my friends. I smiled at that person the other day in the Walmart checkout lane. I get it, love others.”
And that’s wonderful and I’m glad that you do. But, do you realize that everyone includes that person sitting outside Walmart in the “do not park here” zone with their engine running working through their third cigarette in the last 30 minutes as they wait for their wife to finish with the grocery shopping? It also included that guy that is zig-zagging through traffic that almost clipped your headlight, even though you cursed them to some pretty awful things. Get this one, it included that guy that lives in that rundown trailer that you pass on your way to work each day that hasn’t worked in 5 years and yet can afford a surprising amount of alcohol. Let’s do one more. It includes that deadbeat father that left your best friend and their small children to chase some other woman that you have called much nastier names in your head if not out loud. Oh, and He loves her too.
God calls us to love those people. He doesn’t call us to choose which ones we can love and leave the others to someone who is more “tolerant” or “patient” than we are. But God then takes it one step further. He calls us to GO and LOVE those people. To meet them where they are and to love them regardless of who they are and what they’ve done, because He does. He loves them. He loves them right now in all their stinky, nasty sinfulness. He loves them tomorrow even though they haven’t changed one bit. He’ll love them forever even though they will repeatedly curse Him and spit in His face. God loves them to the point that He would die for them.
And we are called to also.
So, what things are you hoping for, are you expecting, are you dreaming that is not in line with what God is doing? What things are you expecting out of your “religion” and God Himself that is not of this new Kingdom that God is really about? What things are you holding on to that are of this worldly kingdom that needs to be removed so that God can use you for His actual Kingdom?
I know I’ve hit you hard this month and I didn’t pull any punches this time, but that’s because I believe this is important. I believe this is important because God believed it was so important that He sent His Son into this world to be brutally murdered so that this new Kingdom could be offered freely to everyone. And here’s one more harsh truth for you to chew on for the next few days: People don’t have a problem with Jesus, they have a problem with Christians.
So, what now?