“You know…what has happened all over Judea…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy Spirit and power and He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed…for God was with him.” (Acts 10:37-38, New American Bible)
“Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and the people about us.” (Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, p. 77)
Sometimes I get bored by Scripture; I find it dull. I think the reason is that I too get caught up in the “this and that” over Scripture – is it literal, myth, inerrant, or imperfect. But in the end for me, it will always be a collection of stories about real people and their interactions with each other and more importantly with God. And when I forget that, it bores me and dulls me.
I can also find Scripture and my faith dull when I forget or ‘overlook’ the humanity of Jesus. Yes, Jesus was utterly and completely human, I forget this, and he was filled with the Spirit and power, and I sometimes forget that as well.
What did Jesus do with his Spirit of God power? He used it to go about doing good, and healing all those who were oppressed.
Now honestly, if I had that kind of power – filled to the brim with God’s Spirit power operating in me, I can’t say I’d use it to go around doing good or healing people. I’d probably start a religion, travel, and make my living, money and reputation off of said power.
But not Jesus. He had ALL the power of God within him and he chose to go around doing good and freeing those who were oppressed.
We don’t talk much about Jesus and the liberation of the oppressed here in America. I think that’s because quite frankly we know more about being the oppressor than being the oppressed. And since in modern society the oppressed are often the ones without access to power and media, they inevitable remain in their silent suffering and tossed about by the every whim of the elite, the wealthy, and the controllers of mass media.
And when I look around at the Christians, I am often left wondering and amazed at just how power hungry some God mongers are. Wouldn’t it be grand if most of “Christendom” and the professed followers of Jesus were known more for going around doing good and healing the oppressed rather than what most of Christians are known for now: gay bashing, immigrant hating, gun-toting, angry reactionary close-minded isolationist or narcissistic self-help gurus seeking wealth and promoting earthly riches. The list goes on…
Truly, I sometimes feel that if Jesus were alive today, we would lock him out of our churches. Why? Because if Jesus were here today he’d be walking around doing good and healing the oppressed – like he’d be hanging out with whores, drug addicts, alcoholics, criminals, plumbers, janitors, money-launderers, and those people who smell funny and talk to themselves when they walk down the street.
Can you hear the complaints from most American Christians? “Just exactly who does this Jesus think he is? How dare him. Well, he’ll mess up my agenda. He’ll mess with my Constitutional Rights! He’ll come across as unpatriotic…un-American even. He’ll offend the neighbors…!!!!” Blah, blah, blah.
Damn right Jesus will mess with you! For you see going around doing good and healing the oppressed got Jesus killed! He did not win some local civic award, or the Nobel Prize, nor did he get 1 million hits on his YouTube viral video or have the most popular Facebook account.
What Jesus got for preaching and living love, and going about doing good and healing the oppressed was that he got strung up on a tree. It is important to remember that in the time of Jesus, much like today, the poor were maligned for being poor because it was their fault – they had sinned or committed some heinous error that had caused God to punish and curse them with poverty…that was the predominant zeitgeist of the era of Jesus.
Jesus screws all that merit-based theology right to hell. Jesus does not focus on why people are poor, Jesus simply focuses on healing them and preaching good news to them (Luke 4:18-19; Luke 7:22; Matthew 11:4 for starters).
Now I’d like to be all pious and sanctimonious and say I am or want to be like Jesus. Well, I do want to be like Jesus, just without the cross. I do want to be filled with the Spirit and go about doing good and being a source of God’s healing for the oppressed. But I am afraid: afraid to trust God that much, and afraid because those who love the poor the way Jesus did often times suffer the same fate as the poor. The truth is I want to be like Jesus, but not like most Christians. It seems I have less in common with Christians today than I ever have.
You see I want to be known more for HOW I LOVE than what I hate or am against.
I want to follow Jesus by imitating him – loving the poor, loving my enemies, doing good to all regardless of whether I like or agree with them. I want that kind of power flowing in and through me, the power of servanthood. But I get scared and let fear hold me back, or I let old alcoholic behaviors hold me back, instead of praying for God to transform my defects into virtues and stepping out in faith.
So I ask myself, what will the stories be about me after I die? What will the legacy I leave be? Will I be known for going about doing good? Or will I be known for being a selfish SOB? What will you be known for? Will you be known about going around doing good?
The answer lies within…