This week explored what can only be described as Jesus’ resistance revolution. After all, embracing the resistance wisdom of Jesus invites dramatic social change. That is the ultimate point of being the light of the world. By shining in the darkness you expose injustice and invite cultural transformation.
The Resistance Revolution
Jesus only outlines a few examples of how to do this. The point is that, whatever specific form it might take, among other things, Jesus’ resistance revolution rejects social hierarchies, calls for an end to greed, and makes life uneasy for oppressors.
It is important to remember that the goal of this resistance revolution is not revenge or humiliation. Rather, it is a call to repentance. And if that repentance comes, mercy is the only appropriate response.
Perhaps the greatest example of this in our day is Nelson Mandela who, after 27 years in prison on Robben Island, became the first president of post-Apartheid South Africa. However, rather than punishing white people for the years of oppression and cruelty, he sought to unify the people of South Africa. To quote Mandela, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
Resistance to the Resistance
That said, no matter how gently we shine a light into the darkness many will react to the light. Some will recoil. Others will get angry. Still more will engage power moves of defending, excusing, explaining, and rationalizing. That is because the last thing a spirit of power wants, is to face the potentially ugly truth. That is what makes a spirit of love feel so dangerous. It is why so many reject the Kingdom of Heaven.
In response to the subversive tactics Jesus lays out, I imagine those in power quickly adapting by changing the rules. Maybe a left handed backhand becomes acceptable to those who turn the cheek. Public nudity will soon lead to quick imprisonment. Peasants can willing carry bags as far as they want. Anything to keep injustice “acceptable.” This means God’s people need to continually find new ways to be the light of the world and expose injustice.
This is where we come the Jesus final words in this segment, “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” Given everything he just said, I hear an invitation to come up with your own ways to respond in your social context.
One Act of Resistance
Almost a year ago I sat in a high end apartment in South Denver. A couple hours earlier I officiated a funeral service for a twenty-seven year old. The apartment belonged to his father. I joined the grieving man and a few of his closest friends for drinks and conversation.
According to the social hierarchy, I did not belong there. Each of these men make more money year in and year out than I have in my lifetime. They were business owners and professional powerhouses. I am former pastor turned retail worker and freelance funeral officiant. But there I was, because of my role as an officiant, joining them in conversations about grief and the challenges of masculinity.
While most of the conversation is a blur, I remember one distinct point where the other men talked about the frustration of not being appreciated. I am not sure if I it was the Holy Spirit that inspired me or the spirits we enjoyed, but I saw an opportunity. Because of my role that day, I had some authority. I had the right to speak hard words that would typically go unheard. So I said, “Maybe part of the problem is that we are looking for appreciation.” The room got quiet. I continued.
“Think about it. We do stuff for the women in our lives. But we do it with strings. We bring flowers or buy jewelry or take her on a date, but we do it with an end in mind. Sometimes we want her just to stop nagging for a bit. Other times we might want her to say thank you. We always do it hoping for sex. But the point is, there is an agenda. That is not loving her, that is manipulating her.”
“The same thing with a business. We build up a business to make a name for ourselves. Something in us wants to be recognized. When we hire an employee, we do it hoping they will respect us, be it because they appreciate the pay or they know we can fire them. But again, we do it all because we want something in the end.”
“What if, we flipped that around and did these to better their lives, not our own? Of course, that requires doing the hard work needed so we can actually love ourselves. We would need to self-validate rather than submit to fears about our inadequacy. But if we did, we would not need to do stuff for the women in our lives hoping they would validate us. Instead, we could just express care and love towards them. The same goes with a business. Instead of building something that became a source of our value and identity, we could build something that blessed others.”
For at least a moment the room went quiet. While I doubt much changed over the past year, that is often what life is like in Jesus’ resistance revolution.
This post is part of an ongoing series. Link here for a list of every episode in this series.