Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Jesus: Not Like Us

"It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o'clock on Sunday morning." -Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It's a famous quote, both for its source and its truth.  And that truth applies to this day.  I may belong to a denomination that has fully integrated its gender roles, with women comprising an increasing percentage of our ordained clergy year-by-year, but honestly, when I show up to regional and national events, we look about as white as the NHL.

And this is before we even get to identities like sexual orientation, gender, age, nationality, and so on.

Cut over to the reaction that evangelical author (and unofficial patron saint of The Theophilus Project) Rachel Held Evans received from Todd Rhoades, the organizer of The Nines conference when she pointed out how few of their speakers this year were women (to say nothing of how many also appear to fit the standard WASP mold).

Now, to be honest, I don't comment a lot on the question of gender and authority in the church because as a fella, I speak from a place of privilege here (as opposed to questions of youth or even ethnicity).  But to be honest, I couldn't possibly care less which set of bits you got underneath your hipster jeans.  I have received Biblical, godly, wise, and loving instruction from male and female pastors and lay leaders alike.  I have received teaching from pastors who are not all like me, and in the end, that is probably as it should be.

Why?  Because I also have dedicated my life to receiving instruction from Jesus Christ as my teacher and my Savior, and He is nothing like me, either.

He is made of divinity itself, and I am but a mere image of that divinity.

He was born into--and lived in--dire poverty, and I have known nothing but a middle-class lifestyle my entire life.

He traveled constantly from town to town in the span of three years, and I have always lived in the same town for at least three years before moving.

He appeared as an ancient Israelite, and I am a contemporary American.

He could heal people simply through His word or His presence, but for healing, I would need to refer people to my medical doctor fiancee.

Yes, Jesus became human so that we could understand and experience God in new and important and amazing ways.

But that does not mean He is like me, or like any of us, really.  He was not like us.  He was something different.  Far, far different.

And if we are willing to surrender and submit to the teachings of someone so unlike us in so many ways, why do we insist on--or feel so comfortable with--being taught by human teachers who *are* as much like us as possible?

Why do we want our churches and conferences and the people who speak at them to look just like us?  Why do these institutions need to sometimes resemble cocoons more than churches or conferences?

And believe me, I'm pointing the finger at myself here: like I said at the beginning, I belong to a denomination that sometimes feels about as homogenized as a gallon of milk.

It's all of us Christians, though.  The minute we say we will follow Christ's teachings, perhaps we should be willing to also say that we will be open to following the teachings of others who may not look like us.  Men being open to the teachings of women, heterosexual Christians being open to the teachings of gays and lesbians, and young and old Christians being open to the teachings of one another.

Instead of maintaining hierarchies of authority over one another, why not maintain listening ears to the voice of the God who transcends our authority?

What a pursuit of the imago dei in one another that could be.

Yours in Christ,

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