Of the World (Day 3 of A Simple Lent)
“They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.”
One of the temptations for the Christian is to develop an “Us vs. Them” mindset.
We have seen this during those fights over so-called religious freedom. We see this when we argue over how we think Jesus would vote. And we certainly see this when we berate and attack Muslims, Sikhs, and anyone who looks different.
Many are so eager to “put on the armor of Christ” to go to war with the demons of this world. It makes me wonder why they have such an ugly view of the world.
Maybe it comes from John and this talk of being “of the world” or “belonging to the world.” I’m sure it does.
So why then are we so eager to use the tactics of the world to defeat the world?
Much of Jesus’s teaching is to be a contrast to the world. But he doesn’t mean the fleshy, physical stuff. He is talking about culture and earthly power. It seems that “the world” is a stand-in for the tyranny of government, the powerful, the wealthy. Jesus is against the collusion of hypocrites and those who work against justice.
It is easy to see this confrontation in worldly terms.
Yet we will see a Messiah who isn’t a military general, who doesn’t ride into Jerusalem on a warhorse, who doesn’t defeat the elites in revolution, and who wrongly dies at the hands of the state as an insurrectionist and terrorist. A kind of ruler with no subjects but equals, no kingdom but GOD’s creation, no rebellion but love.
It seems that to be one who is not of this world is to be not something above or set apart from or better than this world in any of the ways the world measures. It is not to destroy or kill or maim the people who support the present age. It is even to accept the suffering and abuse that this world offers.
So what does this mean for us? Especially those of us trying to live simply?
It means learning to not take cultural expectations as a given.
We have a script we’re all handed as children and as we learn to read the world, the script makes more and more sense. A script that justifies hurting people. A script that justifies indignity. A script that justifies inequality.
And we grow up to believe that this script is not only natural, but good. And often, especially here, even more than that: we believe that this script is the same as the one Jesus offers us. The script he bears for GOD. That GOD wants abuse and violence and inequality.
The script Jesus offers is counter than the one we’ve inherited. It is a script of love and thankfulness. A script of humility and service. A script of sacrifice and intimacy. A script of honesty and communal sharing. A script of standing against abuse and violence. A script of stepping into the breach against the forces which divide us, kill us, make war between us.
A script we spend a life learning and relearning. Over and over. To replace the script that isn’t GOD’s.
A script which encourages us to look around at the world GOD has made and dare to call it good. A script which tells us to look around us and see how different we are. Not with fear because of our difference, but joy and love and the splendor of the human condition. To see people of every race and nationality and say that this person is GOD’s beloved. And I am learning to love them, too.
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