Jesus was not what most folks expected. When you think about God, adjectives like powerful, majestic, and almighty tend to come to mind. But Jesus did not come to the earth with any air of worldly wealth or majestic power. On the contrary, everything about Jesus’ life stood in stark contrast to worldly priorities and values. He arrived on the scene not in strength but in weakness. He was born a Palestinian Jew, into a community of marginalized, oppressed people, spending his early years as a refuge in Africa, eluding political genocide. His formative years were spent in a nondescript village, as a member of an ordinary working-class family.
As a man, he lived in tension with the organized religious system. He resisted the world’s obsessions with wealth, pleasure, power, and recognition. He identified with the weak and powerless, the widow, and the orphan. He did not condemn but defended the sinner. So what does God look like? Like Jesus! Jesus was the embodiment of God’s values and priorities. He is Immanuel, “God with us.” In Jesus we see not only the face of God but also the fullness of his humanity, who you and I are created to be. I can believe in a God who looks like Jesus!
Mike Slaughter, pastor emeritus and global church ambassador for Ginghamsburg Church, served for nearly four decades as the lead pastor and chief dreamer of Ginghamsburg and the spiritual entrepreneur of ministry marketplace innovations. Mike is also the founder and chief strategist of Passionate Churches, LLC, which specializes in developing pastors, church staff and church lay leaders through coaching, training, consulting, and facilitation services. Mike’s call to “afflict the comfortable” challenges Christians to wrestle with God and their God-destinies. Mike’s latest book is Revolutionary Kingdom: following the Rebel Jesus, available on Amazon and Cokesbury.
The church should be safe space from the “-isms” of racism, sexism, ageism, and classism that foster everything from fear to hate crimes. But too often we faithful church attenders can be as divisive in our actions and attitudes as an unchurched neighbor with a Confederate flag decal on his car window. We allow fear to trump faith. We fear those who don’t look, speak, act, vote, love, or believe the same as we do.
Following Jesus means being God’s hands, feet, voice, and bank account for the oppressed and undeserved. How do we start to live out of the abundance of God’s kingdom versus adopting the fearful and selfish scarcity mentality of the unjust economies surrounding us – economies where the rich do get richer as the poor grow poorer?
It’s hard for folks to engage in conversation about what is or isn’t true when it comes to the founding fathers or American history. – Rachel Billups
One of my favorite images is that of people who follow the Rabbi so closely that they are covered by the Rabbi’s dust. Now I see people in our cultural milieu who are covered in the dust of the empire. – Lisa Yebuah
Christians of all stripes or denominations would generally agree that the authority of Scripture is the basis for our faith, lifestyle, and missional calling. Yet we become complacent at best, or stone-throwers at worst, when we worship the Bible rather than the Living Word through whom all things were made. After all, Jesus didn’t leave us a book of rules defining the parameters of God’s will for all ages. Jesus gives us his living presence. The Holy Spirit is dynamic, moving, and expanding our understanding of God. God doesn’t change (see Hebrews 13:8), but our understanding of God does – or at least should. When did the Trinity for so many of us become God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Bible?
People are looking for something different! I am convinced that we are living in a time of seismic spiritual transition in the church. God is doing a new thing! Old institutional religious systems of governance are passing away. Denominational walls are falling down. Christ will be seen in the midst of a counterculture community, emptied of self, living immersed in God’s love.
The church has often been held captive to the political cultural values of the times (justification of slavery, antisemitism, segregation, along with other “isms”) rather than to the revolutionary movement of Jesus. Many “believe” in Jesus, but very few follow. In the Gospels, Jesus said 87 times “follow me,” two times “believe in me,” and zero times “worship me.”
Jesus’ first century followers lived in prophetic tension with the politics of state. The book of Acts describes how some of the early church’s opponents in Thessalonica turned the church’s faithfulness to God into a political accusation. “These people who have been disturbing the peace throughout the empire have also come here. …Every one of them does what is contrary to Caesar’s decrees by naming someone else as king: Jesus” (Acts 17:6-7, CEB).
Terry DeMio published an excellent article in the Cincinnati Enquirer last month pointing to the inequities resulting in higher hospitalizations for Black children.
Our daughter has spent most of her twenty years as a clinical dietician working in children’s hospitals. Researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center wanted to know why so many Black children were readmitted to the hospital for asthma. Why do Black children suffer more with life-threatening complications of Type 1 diabetes?
I have been spending these days reflecting on life’s seasons as I approach my 70th birthday this month. How do we arrive at this life stage so quickly? It seems like only yesterday that we were in our 40’s and dropping our kids off at college. Now they are in their 40’s.
Forty-five years were spent as a local church pastor. While I hesitate to use the word “retired” in regard to my “next,” I am loving having the opportunity to mentor next generation pastors and to teach in their churches on weekends, which I was unable to do in the past. I tend to see the growth and experiences of my life measured in each of the decades. I am humbled that God gave me the opportunity to make my life matter by serving God and people.