Sunday, September 27, 2015

Jesus and Ideology

In our world today, ideology runs rampant. So many people pick a cause, or get picked by a cause, and that cause colors their whole view of the world. And then if somebody is religious and ideological, then everything Jesus says or does is interpreted to fit that ideology. Much closer to home, we saw a lot of this happen with Pope Francis's visit to our country. He speaks in generalities, all straight from Catholic doctrine, and people twist and misinterpret his words to fit their own ideologies. It happens with Jesus, it happens with popes too.

I bring this up because today Jesus really resists being classified in any ideology. We seem him be really really nice and open minded, and then we see him be really really close minded and almost mean. In the first part of the gospel, he tells us to be generous in interpreting any kind thing we see, and then in the second part we see him be very harsh, very strict (even mean) concerning sin.

In last week's gospel Jesus, when the apostles were arguing about who was the greatest, Jesus used a little child to teach them that whoever receives such a child "in my name," receives Jesus, and receives the one who sent him. So there's this idea about doing something good in Jesus's name. So now the apostles have found somebody who is driving out demons in Jesus's name and they think he should stop. Now later on in the Acts of the Apostles we'll see people who are trying to use Jesus's name like a magic trick to drive out demons and it doesn't work, but for the guy today it works. He's successfully driving out demons in Jesus's name, and the only way this could work is if he has authentic faith in Jesus.

The apostles want to be a little closed-minded here and insist that the only people who get to do cool things like heal and drive out demons are those who are a part of our group. But Jesus isn't so closed-minded. He teaches them that anyone who does good in his name is part of their group. Jesus is ok with this man working in his name even though he's not a part of the club. This open, inclusive Jesus is a very popular view of Jesus in our western 21st century. This is a Jesus that gets high approval ratings from our presidents, congresses and judges for being so progressive, as if Jesus cares about whether any human power approves of him.

So this is a Jesus that 21st century progressives really like, but then he has to ruin all of his 21st century credibility with these mean words about sin. Whoever causes an innocent person to sin is better off being forcibly drowned in the ocean. That doesn't sound very open and inviting. Jesus is deadly serious about sin. He is not open-minded about this. He does not welcome all opinions. Whoever or whatever causes sin must be removed.

I've been excited to preach on this scripture for years because I'm convinced that Jesus isn't quite speaking in a metaphor like we think he is. "If you're hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hand to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire." We like to say that he doesn't really mean it, he didn't really mean to cut off your hand, because Jesus is nice and soft and fluffy. But we want to be careful because the conclusion he draws is very, very true. The conclusion he draws, that it is better to enter into life, that is, heaven, maimed than with two hands to go Gehenna, that is, to hell.

No sin, no pleasure in this life is worth it if it risks our eternal destiny. But if you think your hand, your foot, or your eye is the source of your sin, then you've missed the point. Your hand, foot, or eye is not the reason you sin. So we must recognize where the sin in our lives comes from other places. It may come from the friends we keep, it may come from an unmonitored internet connection, it may come from the stuff we endlessly acquire that makes us think that we're self-sufficient. Whatever we allow into our lives that causes us to sin, it is not worth it. Again, Jesus is not open minded and welcoming here. Whatever excuses we make for why this or that sin is excusable, Jesus does not tolerate and he does not accept.

With a gospel like this, most of us will cheer one half of the gospel and be made uncomfortable by the other half. Most of us try to classify Jesus to fit into neatly into our categories, and then when he says something that doesn't fit our categories we become very uncomfortable. We try to insist that Jesus would vote left or right or red or blue. Jesus can't be classified and reduced to an ideology. He's just a little too big for that.

The unifying principle in everything Jesus does is love. Love accepts every good thing, but love never tolerates sin. Sin is always a cheapening of the life that Jesus calls us to. Jesus calls us to a love that actually gives life by affirming the true, the good, and the beautiful. So our job is not to reduce Jesus to our weak human standards and categories, but rather to raise ourselves out of human ideologies to meet Jesus. When we raise ourselves to Jesus's standards then we start to see a view of the world that is so much bigger than the bickering of ideologies. Jesus's view of the world is so much richer and truer than ours. So raise your mind to Christ, take on Christ's view of the world, and through that you will experience Christ's authentic love.

No comments:

Post a Comment