A Subversive God, a Pathetic Christ

Call it what you want: the demonic, the satanic, evil, dark forces, the bleak reality of suffering in the world. It has a grip on humanity, it is the way the world works. I’m not just talking about violence (though I am talking about that too), nor am I just thinking of the major atrocities that happen once every year or five years or decade. I’m talking about that unseen power that has its grips on the everyday reality of humanity.

We all feel it, but don’t talk about it. Some of us feel it and don’t know that we feel it. Christian or not. That power is the thing that makes us think of ourselves first. It is that power that corrupts us when we gain control, even over the tiniest things. This dark force tells us that it is best to look out for #1, that it’s maybe a bad idea to stop and give that homeless man some water because who knows what he could do to me?, that if I could just make a little more money everything would be alright.

All of us, without exception, believe these things. Some of us go to church on Sundays, and listen to the preacher talk about the words of Jesus, and clap our hands or think ourselves virtuous for agreeing that those are the right things to do. This Jesus that tells us “Blessed are the poor” and “Blessed are the meek” and “Blessed are those who mourn.” Then Monday comes, and we are wake up numb to the reality of Sunday. There are bills to pay, after all. That “losing your life” stuff is all well and good when I’m sitting in an air-conditioned building and I’m about to go eat some awesome food at a restaurant after church. But Monday comes, and well, you know. Let’s be practical, come on.

And to be honest, the dark forces surrounding us – the selfishness, the greed, the fear we feel – those are practical responses to the way the world is. It’s just reality. If I don’t look out for myself, well, who else is going to?

Jesus, however, didn’t seem to be bothered by this. He came into this world weak, born to a people that were actively being oppressed by both religious and civil authorities. And then he had the audacity to spend his time, not leading a military resistance, but by walking around, telling stories and healing people of their diseases! And the stories he told were impractical – stupid, even. And you know what’s worse? He only did this for three years. That’s nothing. That’s the blink of an eye.  And you know what’s worse than that? All of that storytelling and healing he did culminated in death. Not a quick death. Not a heroic or valiant death. It was pathetic. He was falsely accused, betrayed by a close friend, and hung on a slab of wood. There was no fanfare. There was no riot. He died a miserable, lonely death, and then a couple of women tended to him. He didn’t even have his own tomb to be buried in.

This is the way that God saves the world. And we have yet to believe that this way – frailty, humility, weakness, death – is the only way to life.

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