Disciples of Jesus Christ are not permitted to be bullies. In fact, Christians should be the kindest, gentlest, most humble human beings on the face of the planet. This does not take away from the spirit of boldness we have been given but instead it helps define that boldness. However, we struggle with an identity crisis. We read the Old Testament and believe much of it gives us permission to be aggressive and bully-like. We fail to recognize that a line was drawn and a new creation made when Jesus Christ rose from the grave. We are not the Jews and we do not live in those times. We have a greater revelation of who God is and who we are in relation to him. We have not been given permission to be violent even in defence. In fact, it is just the opposite.
In Matthew 21 we read of Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem, and like everything else Jesus did, there was purpose and meaning in the way he did it. It is understood that when a king entered a city on a horse he came as a warrior, a conqueror. But when a king entered a city on a donkey, he came in peace. There was nothing aggressive about Jesus in his entire ministry with us and neither was there on this day:
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
“Say to the Daughter of Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” (Matthew 21:1-5)
I think most of us feel disgusted at the church (Westboro Baptist Church) in the sates who wave placards at soldiers funerals and who put out vulgar messages to the press and the world. They use God as an excuse for their ugly aggression. Could you imagine Jesus out there with them? Of course not. But that is only an extreme of what many of us do every day. Take a look at your attitude throughout the day, the words you speak, the actions you take and ask yourself if you could imagine Jesus behaving that way.
Set aside the Old Testament for a moment and consider the New Covenant we have received through Jesus Christ. Did he ever support rebellion against authority?
Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” (Mark 12:17)
In fact Jesus' actual teaching is so far removed from what we live I am sure that some people find it hard to identify us as disciples. Either that or they are receiving the wrong image of Jesus. Most people will never read the Bible to discover who Jesus is so they only have his disciples to judge him by. Think on that for a bit. Do you realize Jesus told us that in the face of aggression we must not retaliate or show aggression back at all:
But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:39)
It gets worse. How do you react when someone steals from you or even wrongfully sues you? You fight back, right? Jesus taught differently:
And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. (Matthew 5:40)
There are people aggressive in their demands of you whether they are spouses, employers, customers, even "friends". How do you react in those situations? Jesus taught:
If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (Matthew 5:41)
We get it so wrong and yet think we are right. In Romans 12 the Apostle Paul tells us not to conform to the patterns of this world but to have our minds transformed in the same manner our heart is transformed. Jesus taught us to love our neighbour even if our neighbour happens to be our enemy. The Apostle Paul told us that we need to consider others, enemies and friends, to be more important than ourselves. That means putting them ahead of our rights. He went on to tell us that we should have the same attitude as Jesus.
I failed in this last night. I have been going to the gym and I am at that point where I am exhausted at night. The other day my wife cut her thumb quite deeply, to the point where she needs help washing her hair. At 9 pm last night she decided she needed a shower and asked me if I would help her wash her hair. Being the man of God I am, I whined and complained about my tiredness and that she should have thought of it earlier. Talk about FAIL! I am suppose to go an extra mile for my enemy but could not even manage to show love to my best friend. Now relate this to your everyday.
We are losing the paradigm shift that Jesus introduced to us and that the Holy Spirit provokes in us. In fact, we are very much following the pattern of this world and shutting our ears to the voice of the Holy Spirit. So many have been doing this so often that we have become dull to the Spirit. We are not representing Jesus very well as we move through our day, as aggressive and callous as the next person. The only difference is that we wear a title we identify with and we try to conform ourselves to a set of rules that identify our particular brand of Christianity. In essence, we have been conformed not transformed.
We use to sing a chorus in the church I grew up in that sums up a desire that I am seeing less of in the disciples of Jesus Christ today:
We were meant to change the world, not to have the world change us. Perhaps we need to get back to that question that was so popular only a few years ago, "What would Jesus do?" The short answer is, he would love no matter what. It is not about a bunch of rules, it is about a heart response to God and an obedience to the Holy Spirit who prompts us to do the correct thing at the correct moment. We need to lose our aggression and concern for self and even stop defending the Church and get on with our humble service in Jesus' name. I hope to be like Jesus today.