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.