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What if Jesus meant all that stuff? (By Shane Claiborne)


(My wife showed me this post, and I thought I would share it with my readers. I know very little about Shane, his beliefs, or even what he looks like. But this post has some serious truths we need to consider.)

To all my nonbelieving, sort-of-believing, and used-to-be-believing friends: I feel like I should begin with a confession. I am sorry that so often the biggest obstacle to God has been Christians. Christians who have had so much to say with our mouths and so little to show with our lives. I am sorry that so often we have forgotten the Christ of our Christianity.

Forgive us. Forgive us for the embarrassing things we have done in the name of God.

The other night I headed into downtown Philly for a stroll with some friends from out of town. We walked down to Penn’s Landing along the river, where there are street performers, artists, musicians. We passed a great magician who did some pretty sweet tricks like pour change out of his iPhone, and then there was a preacher. He wasn’t quite as captivating as the magician. He stood on a box, yelling into a microphone, and beside him was a coffin with a fake dead body inside. He talked about how we are all going to die and go to hell if we don’t know Jesus.

Some folks snickered. Some told him to shut the hell up. A couple of teenagers tried to steal the dead body in the coffin. All I could do was think to myself, I want to jump up on a box beside him and yell at the top of my lungs, “God is not a monster.” Maybe next time I will.

The more I have read the Bible and studied the life of Jesus, the more I have become convinced that Christianity spreads best not through force but through fascination. But over the past few decades our Christianity, at least here in the United States, has become less and less fascinating. We have given the atheists less and less to disbelieve. And the sort of Christianity many of us have seen on TV and heard on the radio looks less and less like Jesus.

At one point Gandhi was asked if he was a Christian, and he said, essentially, “I sure love Jesus, but the Christians seem so unlike their Christ.” A recent study showed that the top three perceptions of Christians in the U. S. among young non-Christians are that Christians are 1) antigay, 2) judgmental, and 3) hypocritical. So what we have here is a bit of an image crisis, and much of that reputation is well deserved. That’s the ugly stuff. And that’s why I begin by saying that I’m sorry.

Now for the good news.

I want to invite you to consider that maybe the televangelists and street preachers are wrong — and that God really is love. Maybe the fruits of the Spirit really are beautiful things like peace, patience, kindness, joy, love, goodness, and not the ugly things that have come to characterize religion, or politics, for that matter. (If there is anything I have learned from liberals and conservatives, it’s that you can have great answers and still be mean… and that just as important as being right is being nice.)

The Bible that I read says that God did not send Jesus to condemn the world but to save it… it was because “God so loved the world.” That is the God I know, and I long for others to know. I did not choose to devote my life to Jesus because I was scared to death of hell or because I wanted crowns in heaven… but because he is good. For those of you who are on a sincere spiritual journey, I hope that you do not reject Christ because of Christians. We have always been a messed-up bunch, and somehow God has survived the embarrassing things we do in His name. At the core of our “Gospel” is the message that Jesus came “not [for] the healthy… but the sick.” And if you choose Jesus, may it not be simply because of a fear of hell or hope for mansions in heaven.

Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in the afterlife, but too often all the church has done is promise the world that there is life after death and use it as a ticket to ignore the hells around us. I am convinced that the Christian Gospel has as much to do with this life as the next, and that the message of that Gospel is not just about going up when we die but about bringing God’s Kingdom down. It was Jesus who taught us to pray that God’s will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” On earth.

One of Jesus’ most scandalous stories is the story of the Good Samaritan. As sentimental as we may have made it, the original story was about a man who gets beat up and left on the side of the road. A priest passes by. A Levite, the quintessential religious guy, also passes by on the other side (perhaps late for a meeting at church). And then comes the Samaritan… you can almost imagine a snicker in the Jewish crowd. Jews did not talk to Samaritans, or even walk through Samaria. But the Samaritan stops and takes care of the guy in the ditch and is lifted up as the hero of the story. I’m sure some of the listeners were ticked. According to the religious elite, Samaritans did not keep the right rules, and they did not have sound doctrine… but Jesus shows that true faith has to work itself out in a way that is Good News to the most bruised and broken person lying in the ditch.

It is so simple, but the pious forget this lesson constantly. God may indeed be evident in a priest, but God is just as likely to be at work through a Samaritan or a prostitute. In fact the Scripture is brimful of God using folks like a lying prostitute named Rahab, an adulterous king named David… at one point God even speaks to a guy named Balaam through his donkey. Some say God spoke to Balaam through his ass and has been speaking through asses ever since. So if God should choose to use us, then we should be grateful but not think too highly of ourselves. And if upon meeting someone we think God could never use, we should think again.

After all, Jesus says to the religious elite who looked down on everybody else: “The tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom ahead of you.” And we wonder what got him killed?

I have a friend in the UK who talks about “dirty theology” — that we have a God who is always using dirt to bring life and healing and redemption, a God who shows up in the most unlikely and scandalous ways. After all, the whole story begins with God reaching down from heaven, picking up some dirt, and breathing life into it. At one point, Jesus takes some mud, spits in it, and wipes it on a blind man’s eyes to heal him. (The priests and producers of anointing oil were not happy that day.)

In fact, the entire story of Jesus is about a God who did not just want to stay “out there” but who moves into the neighborhood, a neighborhood where folks said, “Nothing good could come.” It is this Jesus who was accused of being a glutton and drunkard and rabble-rouser for hanging out with all of society’s rejects, and who died on the imperial cross of Rome reserved for bandits and failed messiahs. This is why the triumph over the cross was a triumph over everything ugly we do to ourselves and to others. It is the final promise that love wins.

It is this Jesus who was born in a stank manger in the middle of a genocide. That is the God that we are just as likely to find in the streets as in the sanctuary, who can redeem revolutionaries and tax collectors, the oppressed and the oppressors… a God who is saving some of us from the ghettos of poverty, and some of us from the ghettos of wealth.

In closing, to those who have closed the door on religion — I was recently asked by a non-Christian friend if I thought he was going to hell. I said, “I hope not. It will be hard to enjoy heaven without you.” If those of us who believe in God do not believe God’s grace is big enough to save the whole world… well, we should at least pray that it is.

Your brother,


Read more: http://www.esquire.com/features/best-and-brightest-2009/shane-claiborne-1209#ixzz11WhB6Cnw


The law, the Gospel, and what to do with it

A good friend of mine posted this on Facebook: ‎”The law tells me how crooked I am. Grace comes along and straightens me out.” (Billy Sunday) and followed it with this: “the Gospel gives us the righteousness thru Christ that we could never attain without keeping the law in it’s entirety…which is impossible. Once we have gained that righteousness through acceptace of Christ’s free gift, we then should desire to live within the law because it is itself reflective of the nature of God. We do not attempt to keep the law to gain salvation, we attempt to keep it BECAUSE of our salvation. Romans 3:31 , 8:3-4” I told him that he was not incorrect, but that I felt it necessary to clarify what he says about the Christian’s relationship to the law. That discourse is below…

Understanding God’s law reveals our lack of ability to attain righteousness…the righteousness necessary to gain eternal life and to avoid eternal separation from God. “For all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23). As a result of no one being righteous (Romans 3:10), we have earned death (“The wages of sin is death”- Romans 6:23). The law has therefore condemned us to death because we absolutely cannot keep it.

However, the rest of Romans 6:23 says “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “But” tells us this is a contradictory statement to the previous “wages of sin is death”…that sounds like bad news to me. So “but” means good news is coming…this gift of God through Jesus. Romans 5:8 says that “God demonstrates His love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The rest of scripture reveals that the death we earned by breaking God’s law is death…eternal separation from God in this life and the next (or, to be honest, hell). But Jesus took our place, a substitutionary sacrifice. Why did God allow this? He knew we could never meet the requirements of the law on our own. He sends His son, Jesus, to live a perfect life we could not live. He allows His son to die in our place (the Old Testament says that without blood, there can be no forgiveness of sins). Jesus’ perfect blood was shed in our place…He paid our penalty…He died our death.

But, just because He did that, doesn’t mean it’s over. We are not justified or redeemed or forgiven just because He died. The Bible continues to teach that we have a responsibility to claim this gift. Acts 3:19 says we must repent and turn to God so that our sins may be wiped out. Without repentance, this transaction is no good to us. Ephesians 2:8 says we are saved by grace, God’s grace, through faith – and this not of ourselves. Without faith, this transaction is no good to us. Romans 10:9-10 says, “That if you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified and with your mouth you confess and are saved.” Without confession and belief, this transaction is no good to us. It takes repentance, faith, confession and belief in these truths to be saved, to receive this gift from God, this new life in Jesus, through Jesus.

At this point, the law is complete. Christ is the fulfillment of the law. Don’t get me wrong, Jesus clearly says in Matthew 5:17 that He didn’t come to abolish the law, but He did say in the same verse He came to fulfill them. Paul says in Romans 10:4 that “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Jesus fulfilled the law of Moses. In Him the law reached its goal. He has now opened the way to God through trust in Him rather than through observance of legal requirements. Romans 6:14, “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.”

We, as Christians, experience righteousness by a faith relationship to God. Righteousness does not come from human actions in following commandments, whether human or divine commandments. Righteousness comes from God Himself. We maintain righteousness by our continual seeking of God Himself, through Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit…in seeking to follow God in this way, it will result in upholding the law (Romans 3:31). Upholding the law does not result in righteousness “for we maintain that man is justified by faith apart from observing the law” (Romans 3:28). “Through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God” (Galatians 2:19).

All this to say that we do maintain the law because of our salvation, but that the law is not the reason for our seeking righteousness or even the avenue for seeking righteousness. We must seek God…”But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Trying to keep the law will only result in failure. Trying to seek God will result in being filled (“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” Matthew 5:6).