thin skin…

Well, a religious super group has formed to protest a new cartoon about Jesus that is being developed by Comedy Central. The show is about Jesus wanting to live the life of a regular guy trying to get out from under the shadow of his “powerful but apathetic father.”

A month or so ago, when I first read about this show in development…I rolled my eyes. I did this for a couple of reasons.

One, because this is just another in a long line of Christian-antagonizers that have been on the scene since Christ himself. So to many of us it is really not a big surprise that things haven’t changed that much, for truly, there is really nothing new under the sun.

But secondly, I knew it wouldn’t be long before the hurt and offended Christians would mobilize to fight the development of this show.

May I ask a question of the Christian?

When did we get so thin-skinned and so easily offended by everything that people say or do to us as Christians? When did we decide that in the face of opposition, name-calling, or persecution we would begin fighting back rather than counting it, as Jesus would say, “a blessing?” When did we stop looking to and emulating the way that Jesus lived and the way he called his followers to, by responding to opposition, name-calling, and persecution in humility, submission, and non-retaliation? When did we replace the best and highest way of “blessing those who curse you” and “praying for those who persecute you,” that Christ called each of us to, with crying out like victims? When did we forget the words of Jesus, “Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you.”

We do not like to take the low and humble way of picking up the towel to wash the feet of our enemies. We do not like practicing the way of turning the other cheek when someone strikes us. We do not like forgiving those who have trespassed against us. We do not like blessing others when they ridicule, mock, antagonize, or treat us unkindly.

Rather, we respond the way the rest of the world responds, which is very different than the way of Jesus and the way of which he calls his followers. Rather than being a people who are meek, or overly submissive, we fight and claw to defend ourselves and to defend Christ (who, by the way, does not need to be defended). Rather than taking the road of the suffering-servant, we rise above to crush or silence the opposition. Rather than being the poor in spirit, we form coalitions and advocacy groups to be mighty in power. Rather than being peacemakers by not participating in the endless cycle of retaliation, we extend the conflict. Rather than looking like the embodiment of Christ through our self-sacrificial love to friend and enemy, we respond in anger, frustration, and sometimes even hatred.

Think about our track record and the message it sends the world. We push and fight for the 10 Commandments to be put in front of courthouses. We cry foul when prayer is not “officially” allowed in schools, even though we do not need the approval of anyone to pray I might add. We put a big fish on our car that is eating a Darwin creature to make the subtle point that we will triumph. Our fighting, retaliating, and pettiness compromises the Kingdom life that we are to be living out in the power of the Holy Spirit. Not in your power. Not in the power of your Church. Not in the power of an organization.

The power of the Holy Spirit captivates a world by love. Your power repels the world in antagonism.

Let this story serve as an example. One Sunday we showed up at our church building that we rent and someone had painted a Nazi swastika in red spray paint on the front of our building. We didn’t pay much attention to it, as it looked like the work of some foolish children. After a couple of weeks went by, and the swastika was still there, I heard some people in our church musing over an idea to use spray paint to turn the swastika into a cross. I didn’t pay the idea much attention, as I thought everyone was just having fun with ways to “redeem” a terrible symbol.

A few days later as I was riding my bike passed our building, I noticed that, sure enough, the swastika had been transformed into a cross with the word “love” written beside it. I didn’t say anything about it, even though I didn’t like what had been done.

My fears came to fruition a few days later when I returned back to the building to find that the word “NAZI” was now spray-painted along the entire front of the building, including the windows, in retaliation for our naive move.

Here’s the point. When we respond to hateful, persecuting, or hostile people in the same way they treat us…then the vicious cycle begins…one group tries to rise above another group…retaliating…responding…escalating…and the cycle never ends. This approach creates more hostility, more divisiveness, more antagonism, and more conflict. This approach NEVER changes hearts or minds, it just embitters and callouses.

The way of the Christian must be the lowly, humble, meek, loving, blessing, and non-retaliating approach of our Christ. No other way will do.

“The power of Christ works in my weakness. That is why I take pleasure in my weaknesses and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Again…it is only the way of God that changes hearts and changes minds, not through the ways and workings of the world.

peace…

brandon

9 thoughts on “thin skin…

  1. Brandon,
    I think your thoughts are on target. Thanks for being bold enough to say them. I also appreciated your recent article in the Republic. Thanks for all you do for the Kingdom! Keep up the great work.

    Mark Teike

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  2. I agree with this but hadn’t thought it through in that way before. I just can never work up any outrage about things like that. The energy to counter ridiculous things that people say and do comes from caring what they think. Their “opinion” is exactly as important as mine (i.e. not at all). The only things that are important are the FACTS as stated by God. Things that people do against us are just normal and expected behaviors from those who are perishing. Their argument is with God, not us. It’s a paint can vs. an eternal God. That’s not offensive or angering. That’s just really sad.

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  3. Absolutely true! If Jesus had nothing left to defend, who are we to think we should stand up when someone steps on our little toes? Jesus is big enough to take care of himself. All we hafta do is love. It is God that gives us the ability to love, and it is with that love that He changes hearts and minds. Not retaliation.

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  4. Thank you, Brandon, for this post. I’ve been struggling with some of the things you talked about, and have been humbly redirected by some trusted brothers and sisters to get back into the Word of God and begin reading again. Since I’ve been doing this, God is seemingly speaking a little more clearly now. I’m learning that He’s speaking to me about having a gentle, quiet spirit, and not being given to fear, but rather submission. I dont’ need to retaliate. So thanks, your words mean a lot to me.

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  5. Very deep thought, you are right, we aren’t here to defend G-d, he doesn’t need our help, we are only commandment to obey him and our neighbor as ourselves, when we try to defend G-d the message is that he is no powerful enough to do it by himself, just ignore when people do that and not join them, and pray for the people who do that, they will really need help when G-d call them. One day G-d will show all the world who is him, and that day will be the great day.

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  6. Thank you for commenting on my post! Only fair I read yours as well! I think the idea of that tv show is brilliant. It might show people how to treat people like people. Jesus was born through extrodinary events and caused even more extraordinary events.But I can garantee that he wanted some down-time at some point. Trying to straighten out the misguided attempts at twisting his words on a daily basis had to have been tiring. He had some very specific lessons to teach, the main one is “don’t be a dick to other people for any reason.” It’s too bad that people are forgetting that part in favor of using their religion for personal gain when the Christians trying to do the right thing and embrace people that may not believe the same as them, are getting attacked for it. You, sir, are smart and see the people who should be congradulated and the others that need to be ignored. *Faith in humanity slightly restored*

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    1. completely funny concept for the show… and hardly offensive. I am sure Jesus himself might laugh. anyway… thanks for reading. as with every other movement in the world… there are people who miss the point. the way of Jesus is beautiful… and if really followed the world would be a better place. that’s the problem with much of organized religion. taking on the name… just not the practice. thanks for the dialogue and the follow!

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      1. Of, course! Credit was owed. I may not follow the same faith, but I sure as hell have respect to those who have faith and can return the respect.

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