Jesus is talking about the church…a powerful church…a church that is really awesome and scary.
Does that sound like the church you know?
Is your church scary?
I don’t mean scary in the way Freddy in A Nightmare on Elm Street is scary or a big, intimidating and cruel bully is scary. I don’t mean scary in the way people with money and power can be scary either.
The scary about which the Scripture speaks is a different critter altogether.
The late Robert Webber, in his book Ancient-Future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World, points out that the culture called “postmodern” is really, in a lot of ways, a reversion to the first century when the church had no power, no influence and no leverage.
No, that’s good.
Webber says that we’re living in a cultural milieu in which people won’t be manipulated, coerced or bullied even if we had (which we don’t) the power, money and influence we once had to do it. So the people of God are being forced to do it Jesus’ way.
John Whitehead, the founder of the Rutherford Institute, once sent me a bumper sticker: “Speak Truth To Power.”
The people of God are being forced to do it Jesus’ way.
Now that’s scary, the kind of scary I mean.
If we, as Christians, are called to be scary (and we are), then what does that mean? As we speak truth to power, what makes us scary?
We have nothing to lose.
I recently heard a man dying of cancer give his testimony. It was powerful. He talked about his sins with great authenticity, about his struggles with great care, and about his faith with great power. He said that he didn’t have anything to lose.
Jesus sends out his disciples, warning them about the persecution they will face, and then he says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28). Everything that everybody thinks is important…isn’t. It will all pass away. Except for you. You will live forever. Not only that. Everything you know is important will be important forever.
Religion isn’t scary. But truth spoken without fear of losing anything is scary. It makes everybody uncomfortable.
We have nothing to prove.
When you became a Christian you made an announcement to the world that you are screwed up, desperately needy and weak, and horribly sinful. Jesus didn’t come for well people…he is the Great Physician only for really sick people. That’s why we ran to him. And Luther said that the definition of sanctification is “getting used to being forgiven.”
What if you didn’t have a reputation to protect? What if you didn’t care what people thought about you? Now that would be scary.
We have nothing to fix.
Fixing stuff is way above our pay grade. That is God’s business, not ours. Once we stop being the world’s mother, having an agenda, or trying to make people into our own image, there is great freedom and incredible joy. That’s scary.
All we’re called to do is to point people to Jesus. I’ve given up trying to fix people. I can’t even fix myself. But I haven’t given up speaking the truth about what needs to be fixed in me and in the world. All I have to do is say it. That makes the world angry and anger is always a sign of fear.
Once Christians really understand that we have nothing to lose, nothing to prove and nothing to fix, the world will take notice. You don’t mess with Christians who have been with Jesus. The world ought to be afraid…very afraid.