This is My Body Given For You (Kind of)

This Good Friday I would like to offer some thoughts and a challenge to you about the death of Christ.

The typical Christian thought of Christ’s Passion is that it was something done “for us.”

And that is the foundation of Christianity: that Christ was given sacrificially over to death so as to atone for the sins of humanity and bridge the divide between God and man.

It was in that sacrificial act that God moved decisively in history and did something “for us.”

We didn’t reach this conclusion by happenstance, for Jesus himself asserted that he was giving his broken body for each one of us.

In fact, we can still hear the echo of Jesus’ pronouncement during his final meal just moments before he would be arrested, beaten, and crucified, “This is my body, given for you.”

So while we, as Christians, have been on solid footing in our understanding that the death of Christ was something done on our behalf, I would propose that the pronouncement of Jesus is something more than any of us have ever imagined- not just something done “for us,” but also as something being done through us by God as well.

“This my body, given for you,” is not simply a statement continually reminding us of who Jesus was and what he did.  It is also a declaration of what his Body (the Church) will continue to do.

And the implications of this larger understanding have the potential to breathe fresh life into the Church, but more importantly- to change the world.

It is a step forward from a position of being perpetual recipients and into a position of being recipients and then extenders.

This is captured nicely in the parable of the servants.

Three servants were each given something.

Two of the servants extended what they had been given.

One servant held onto what was generously given and extended nothing.

It was this foolish servant who was reprimanded for not extending what had been given.

The lesson for each of us is: what we have been freely given… we ought to freely extend.

As Christ’s body was given for us… we have become his Body in order to give ourselves for others.

As was the pattern and shape of Christ being broken and poured out for us, so we become the Body of Christ by allowing ourselves to be broken open and our blood poured out for the world.

And becoming his Body means that we take on the exact pattern and shape of his life, with a willingness and determination to even go to our death in order to demonstrate God’s radical love.

But doing this confronts every way we have fought against truly being his body, broken for the world.

Christ’s body would not stand up and fight… his body would lie down in surrender.

Christ’s body would not break people down… his body would allow itself to be broken for the world.

Christ’s body would not seek to be exalted… his body would be ridiculed among the sinners.

Christ’s body would not be self-righteous… his body would be meek and humble.

Christ’s body would not be accusing or condemning… his body would be gentle and empathetic.

Christ’s body would not be legislating morality… his body would be teaching and demonstrating a higher way and extending grace.

Christ’s body would not be shunning sinners… his body would be washing their feet.

Christ’s body would not be casting people aside… his body would be joining them where they are at.

Christ’s body would not be pronouncing judgment… his body would be defending the cause of the weak, the poor, and the oppressed.

Christ’s body would not be casting stones… his body would be making peace.

Christ’s body would not be sitting at the exclusive table for the religious… his body would be sitting among the outcasts and sinners.

Christ’s body would not be despising and hating… his body would be loving.

In the same way that Christ embodied the beauty, richness, and fullness of God’s generous mercy, forgiveness, love, and grace by becoming the least of these… so ought his Body on earth right now.

But the truth is that we are all too eager to unconditionally receive God’s love, grace, forgiveness, mercy, and all-consuming love… but painfully conditional or absent in extending it.

But guess what?

It’s not ours to give.  It’s God’s.

And we have been generously entrusted with what God has given us so as to further extend it.

God’s full expression was on display in the body of Jesus Christ… and nothing short of that ought to be on display through the Body of Christ in the world today.

What we have been lavished in and showered with… flows freely.

And that’s where real Life is found- giving ourselves, our lives, our bodies for others.

While it is true that we, as Christians, would rather die than to ever stop living in God’s all-consuming, enveloping, and overwhelming love.

It can not stop there.

This all-consuming, enveloping, and overwhelming love is not simply meant to be received.

It is meant to be given as well.

And here is what that means.

It means that we would rather die than to ever stop giving that kind of all-consuming, enveloping, and overwhelming love.

Again, what is received… is meant to be given.

On this Good Friday as we join our Savior at his table… let us join him in his proclamation to all of the world, “This is my body, given for you.”

Peace…

Brandon

GUEST POST: Pro-life like Jesus by Kaila Coon

I am a Christian, and I am emphatically and unapologetically pro-life.

Reading that statement, I know half of you are amped and uttering ‘amen’ to your computer screen, while the other half of you are beginning to work yourselves into an indignant furry.  But give me a second, because my idea of pro-life might not quite jive with your preconceptions of the term.

I just had a baby a couple months ago, and the whole process of pregnancy and birth was absolutely amazing.  So, when I say ‘pro-life,’ I do mean that it is important to protect and cherish the unborn. But that’s not all I mean.

As it turns out, life goes on after birth.  Crazy right?  But its true.  And being pro-life means valuing that life for its entire duration, not just for the nine months it spends in utero.

To me, being pro-life means valuing and protecting all lives at all times.

To me, being pro-life means being a peace-lover and a pacifist.

But ‘pacifist,’ like ‘pro-life,’ is another one of those tricky words.  What does it really mean to be a Christian pacifist?

Let me begin by telling you what it doesn’t mean.

Pacifism is not the act of being passive.

It is not letting evil do whatever it wants to whom ever it wants.  It is not abandoning the weak, helpless or vulnerable in the face of oppression.  Nor is it a way to avoid serving one’s country, protecting one’s neighbors, or even giving one’s life for a greater cause.

Pacifism is not passive.  But is does require that we find creative and non-violent ways to engage.

Rather than joining the infantry, we can serve as doctors, nurses, chaplains, and mental health workers.  Rather than using violent means to defend the defenseless, we can demonstrate, fundraise, sit in, or use economic sanctions and incentives.  The possibilities for non-violent engagement are as limitless as our imaginations.

Now, before I explain what it is, let me tell you why it is.

I am a pacifist because of Jesus.

Because he valued every life he encountered – women, lepers, tax collectors and religious leaders alike.

Because his ministry was one of healing and restoration, not destruction and violence.

Because he taught his followers to turn the other cheek instead of taking an eye for an eye.

Because he modeled seeking a third way between the passive resignation of the pharisees and the religious violence of the zealots.

Because he left not room in his speech or actions for violence, and he didn’t tolerate it in his followers either (remember how he healed the soldier’s ear and rebuked Peter for cutting it off?).

I am a pacifist because Jesus taught us to love our neighbor and to love our enemy.  He called love the greatest command and even summarized all of scripture as an imperative to love God and love humanity.

I am a pacifist because we are called to live and love like him.

And I don’t believe we show love when we practice violence against our fellowmen.

So what is this art of Christian pacifism?

It is, of course, the refusal to wield weapons or to kill.

But it is also much more than that!  It is a forsaking of all violence in all its forms.  It is a refusal to cause physical harm and a refusal to participate social, cultural, psychological, emotional and relational violence.

But pacifism is not simply a rejection of violence either, it is also proactive.

In place of violence, we are to participate with God in the restoration of all creation.  We are to stand up for the oppressed and marginalized in creative and non-violent ways.  We are to seek and create peace wherever we go.  Peace in our world, in our country, in our communities, our churches, our relationships, and peace in our own souls.  And how do we make peace?  By practicing love for our neighbors and our enemies alike, just as Jesus commanded us to.

And what is love?

Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy or brag, it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way, nor is it irritable or resentful.  It does not delight in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.  Love never ends.

So you see, to be a pacifist is to be pro-life in the fullest sense of the word.

It is to protect lives by refusing to inflict physical, psychological or emotional harm, but it also to promote true and full life by modeling peace and love even when it is incredibly difficult to do so.

It is much harder to be pro-life than it is to be anti-war, but it is my calling as a daughter of Yahweh.  Each day I ask myself what I can help restore, where I can bring peace.  Many days I fail to love like Jesus, and many days I do employ various forms of violence against the people and the world around me.  But every morning God graciously offers a new start and calls us once again to live and love like him.

Kaila Coon is a writer and a student of the Hebrew Bible.  She completed her M.A. in Biblical Studies with a concentration in Old Testament at Denver Seminary in May of 2012 and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences with a minor in Religious Studies from the University of Denver.  You can read more of her writing at Old Testament 101.

Rediscovering the Word Evangelical

There is a beautiful word… an elegant descriptor… that has been maligned, tarnished, lampooned, distorted, and completely misunderstood. It is a name many have abandoned for all of it’s negative connotations and ugly stereotypes. But this bruised and battered identifier… this lowly mark tossed carelessly to the side by a cynical generation… is finally being rediscovered, reclaimed, renewed, and washed clean by those hungry to wear it and hold it high for the world to see clearly.

The word is Evangelical.

And it is beautiful because at it’s very heart, it’s very core, it simply describes anyone who proclaims the Good News. But it seems that many have skewed the Good News and given the name Evangelical a bad rap by proclaiming messages that don’t seem so good… that make people feel worse on the inside and not so hopeful that there is an alternative to this confusing, messed up world.

As an Evangelical, as a proud proclaimer of the Good News, I want to share with you the Good News of the Kingdom of God… and the reason why I will continue to wear the name and preach the message until the day I die.

The Good News is that there is an alternative. This is another way. There is a reason to have hope.

The great alternative to this world, that Jesus preached about and was preoccupied with establishing, operated by a new set of values, a new way of thinking, a new way of being human. The Good News that Jesus announced was like nothing the world had ever known or seen before. As such, Jesus was not preoccupied with fighting violently against the kingdoms of the world, or the prevailing governmental or political order. Jesus wasn’t even preoccupied with trying to reform them or preoccupied with trying to establish a new or different political system or governmental system. And, he was certainly not trying to build up a bricks and mortar palace where he would rule from the top-down.

The Kingdom that Jesus came to proclaim would be established much differently than those of the world, and it would not look like anything the world had ever seen, because the people in this Kingdom would do everything opposite from the ways and workings of the world. It would be a grassroots, organic movement that changes the world from the bottom-up and from the inside-out, defying every bit of worldly wisdom in the process.

When the world hits you, do not retaliate, but give the other cheek. When the world is weighing you down with heavy requests, don’t just go one mile with the request but go two miles. When the world takes everything you have, even the coat off of your back, don’t just give your coat but go even further by offering your shirt. When the way of the world harbors anger and holds grudges, be one who forgives your friends and your enemies alike. And, don’t just forgive once, but forgive and forgive and forgive.

When the world is quick to respond and rip a person to shreds, be one who controls your anger and the words that come from your mouth. When the world devalues relationships and marriages, be one who looks to the interest of others, honors commitments, and always remains selfless. When the world looks out for and protects its own pursuits and interests to the detriment of others, be one who treats others as you would want to be treated yourself. When the world is ready to cast the stone of judgment at the sinner, be one who loves and stands beside every single person without judgment. When the world shuns the outcast and pushes him to the edges of society, be one who befriends the outcast and welcomes him back into loving community.

When the world lords over you with mighty power and authority, be one who is humble and comes from the bottom-up to serve everyone. When the world takes the seat of honor so it can be seen and noticed by everyone, be one who takes the seat of low-position in the back of the room. When the world puts on a show of being pure and good but is corrupt at the very core, be one who is pure from the inside and let it work out through your life. When the world continues in the ways of injustice and is merciless to the least in society, be one who stands for the least and for those who cannot defend themselves by demanding justice and mercy.

When the world fights and wars, be one who always stands on the side of peace no matter the situation and no matter the circumstance. When the world insults, ridicules, and curses you, be one who blesses in return. When the evil of the world assaults you, be the one who does not resist the evil. And when the world beats you, spits upon you, and is preparing to crucify you, continue on the way of forgiveness and self-sacrificial love.

That is the Good News of the Kingdom of God! That is what it means to be a true, genuine, authentic Evangelical. That is the treasure of great riches that the world so desperately needs to discover. That is the pearl of great value that we sell everything we have in order to attain it. That is what will spread like an infection, a mustard seed, yeast in the dough if the world would ever hear it and see it put into practice by a transformed people. That is the in-breaking of heaven into the house that has been held hostage for far too long. That is the occupation, proclamation, task, and obsession of the follower of Christ… of every Evangelical… in the vineyard of the world!

The Kingdom of God is the full-on reign of God in the hearts and minds of those who believe in the way, life, and teachings of Jesus, who have died to the old, tired, and worn-out ways of the world, and who have been made new by the working and empowering of the Spirit of God in order to bring heaven on earth, while awaiting and anticipating the return of Christ as Lord at the renewal of all things!!! It is what a life looks like when God reigns in and through a person here on earth in every single thought, action, attitude, situation, or scenario. The Kingdom of God looks like an invasion from heaven into the strongholds of a person’s life, a cleaning out of the house, a light breaking through into the darkness, and a constant and continual in-breaking of heaven through one’s life into the world. It is a Kingdom that reigns in the hearts and minds of people, not through the political, governmental, bureaucratic, religious, institutional brick and mortar systems of the world. The Kingdom of God will never come through those systems, because they will all pass away one day.

That is why Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is not something that can be seen or observed. It is not visible with the eye for anyone to see or to visibly discover. In fact, people will not be able to say, “Here it is,” or “There it is,” because the Kingdom of God is within the hearts and minds of those who follow the way, life, and teachings of Jesus. In this way, the Kingdom of God can not be conquered, destroyed, or defeated, but it continues to grow larger and continues to spread from person to person all throughout the world like a mustard seed in a field or yeast in dough. It breaks into our world like an infection to displace the kingdoms of the world and to establish the reign of God, through and through, in the hearts, minds, and lives of people who are like Jesus in everything we do.

That is what it means to be an Evangelical. That is why I wear the name with honor and will hold the banner high. It is to Jesus Christ and the Good News of his Kingdom that I pledge my allegiance and give my life.