Monday, December 10, 2007

Jesus - Still Too Radical?

This picture was posted by Greg Boyd on his blog. It is the work of an artist names Lars Justinen from the Justinen Creative Group. He created the image for use in advertising for a Christian ministry called Heavenly Sanctuary. Under the picture were captions such as "Follow the Leader," "God IS Great," and "Jesus - Still Too Radical?" As you can imagine, the posters created quite a stir, especially among Christians. (You can read more about it at Boyd's blog.) But, I post the picture here because I am curious about the reactions of my readers. What are your thoughts? Is Jesus still too radical?

P.S. In case some of you are wondering, the political leaders are, from left to right, German Chancellor Angela Merkel; former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair; former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan; Osama bin Laden; US President, George W. Bush; Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh; and former President of China, Jiang Zemin.


allhokie said...

I'm a fan of Greg Boyd. I read an article in the NYT a few years ago about his sermon series on the two kingdoms. I downloaded the sermons and then read the book (Myth of a Christian Nation) and have been listening ever since. Some people think he is a heretic because of his open theism. I don't know what to think about that -- I'm not a Calvinist, so it's not so troubling to me. but the rest of his stuff is great. And he likes and lets women preach in his church.

As for the picture, I saw it when he posted it. Jesus washed Judas' feet too. I think the picture hits a lot of nerves because it shows Jesus loving our enemies. One may believe or argue a war is just, and fighting and killing is justified but that is from Augustine not Jesus. Jesus loves Osama bin Laden as much as he loves George W. Bush.

Emily Hunter McGowin said...

Ah, that's it, isn't it? Jesus can love his enemies and wash their feet, but he can't love our enemies. Because we hate Osama, Jesus must hate him too. I find it sad that it has come to this.

Do we not really believe Jesus when he says, "Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you"? We must not. Or, we must think such a lifestyle is impossible. But, by "being with" Jesus, by becoming like him through God's grace, it is possible. It's not been tried and found wanting, it's never been tried.

Thanks for your thoughts. I like Greg Boyd too. I disagree strongly with him on the matter of God's foreknowledge, but I disagree just as strongly with John Piper. So... I'm grateful that I can still benefit from both.

Grace and peace,


Strider said...

Loving your enemies leads to crucifixion. If you are not about the cross then avoid your enemies at all costs.

Strider said...

Oh, and watch out for your friends as well.

Emily Hunter McGowin said...

Strider, you've made a great point. Jesus embraced his enemies and was killed for it. God embraced his enemies and lost the Son over it. What makes us think that we can expect anything else?

Emily Hunter McGowin said...

I think clarification is needed, however, when we look into situations of victimization: sexual assault, physical and psychological abuse, and torture. It seems that embracing or loving one's enemies gets tricky in situations such as these. Surely, we are not telling the abused to embrace someone who will only beat her in return. I hope not.

A theology that includes sacrificial love has also to include conceptions of justice and reconciliation. Walter Wink says, “When church leaders preach reconciliation without having unequivocally committed themselves to struggle on the side of the oppressed for justice, they are caught straddling a pseudoneutrality made of nothing but thin air.”

Filipino poet J. Cabazares’ says: “Talk to us about reconciliation/Only if your words are not products of your devious scheme/to silence our struggle for freedom.”

I agree. Although cruciform living definitely involves embrace of enemies, we must tread carefully in the case of those who are repeatedly and demonically victimized by their enemies.

AmeBenit said...

It's interesting that educated intelligent folk would talk about something they apparently have not studied.

Love your enemy... who is the enemy? What exactly was Jesus referring to when He said that. It has all been taken out of context and now we have a muddle about whether we should protect ourselves, defend ourselves, protect our families etc.

To love your enemy is meant to refer to your neighbor, or a stranger who is not of your family or tribe. Loving your enemy does not refer to someone who has animosity and murder in their heart towards you. Pray for those who dispitefully use you... again, does not mean you lay down your life to that one. You can pray for someone without giving up your life, right?

Happily, according to the Bible, we can still protect ourselves, protect our families, BUT, of course as long as we follow the rules of engagement stated in the Word. Do not sin in your anger, being one of them

Generosity towards those who are put upon, abused, in a desperate situation has been a tradition that Jesus expounded upon in the story of the Good Samaritan, and where the words, to love your enemy, came from. It is a Jewish tradition, and it was supposed to be a Christian tradition.

As far as the washing of feet, that is reserved to those whom the Master was going to serve. Not to just anyone, but those who would follow Him. We will in turn serve the master, drink of the cup that He drank from and be a servant of Jesus Christ. I am in you and you are in me, was what Jesus said. Not to the idol worshippers, but to those who followed Him and were His disciples. This washing of feet of His disciples was to show that He was in them, or at least would be shortly by a great service He would render to mankind.

He would EXCHANGE His pure, clean, sanctified, born of the Holy Spirit life for the misguided one of the First Adam, thereby reversing the loss of our close and familial relationship with our Creator.

Anyone can benefit from this wonderful thing. No matter where they come from or who they are. There is an EXCHANGE that must occur, however. Humans must trade in their wicked selves and allow Jesus by the Holy Spirit of God to instruct them, lead them, and correct them.

Another allegory, exchanging our tattered and dirty garments - traditional garment of mourning- for white clean robes of righteousness, or joy and festivity.

Y'all be blessed, oh, and don't toss your pearls in front of swine, please. Make sure you know who you are voting for and why, in the upcoming elections. Your votes are pearls of great value. Spend them wisely.

Emily Hunter McGowin said...


I appreciate you stopping by. I don't think you've commented here before.

As you visit and share your opinion, I would strongly encourage you to think twice about comments like this, which come across as arrogant and condescending: "It's interesting that educated intelligent folk would talk about something they apparently have not studied." Unfortunately, with an attitude like that, even if I were inclined to agree with you, I would be put off entirely.

That said, although I hear your qualifications and appreciate your different perspective, I strongly disagree with your assessment of Jesus' teaching on enemies and Jesus' act of foot-washing. In fact, I think you have missed the radical nature of Jesus' point entirely. What you describe is something any Rabbi in Palestine would have taught at that time, not something that turns the world on it's head.

Perhaps I will post something at greater length to deal with the issue another time.

Take care, Amebenit.

Grace and peace,


allhokie said...

AmeBenit wrote Loving your enemy does not refer to someone who has animosity and murder in their heart towards you. Pray for those who dispitefully use you... again, does not mean you lay down your life to that one. You can pray for someone without giving up your life, right? ... As far as the washing of feet, that is reserved to those whom the Master was going to serve. Not to just anyone, but those who would follow Him.

Jesus washed Judas' feet that night, not just the faithful disciples' feet. Judas had to have some lack of devotion and degree of animosity toward Jesus to betray him. In spite of that, Jesus did give up his life for Judas too. I disagree with your qualification on loving enemies. I don't know what else an enemy is but one with animosity. Jesus' example is exactly that of serving to the point of giving up his life for all of us.


Strider said...

Tricia- well said.
Emily, as far as the abused go... Jesus said that no one takes his life, but he himself lays it down. The abused and beaten can not love if their humility and love is coerced. They must first find their lives, give them to Jesus who will in turn empower them to lay them down again. It's a complicated God-thing that we preachers get in trouble with when we try to prescribe it to others without knowing the situation.

Lon said...

Thanks for this post. My opinion, that the painting is a good litmus test to determine someone's understanding of Jesus' message, got longwinded enough to form an entire post on my blog.

And Merry Cmas to you and yours!

Paul said...

Yes, I think Tricia "nailed it" (no pun intended.) Great discussion though--and Judas is a good example. Jesus even forgave those who were murdering him.

IMHO, true forgiveness (Jesus-style) meant seeing your brother not as a body, but seeing the "Christ" within them which connects with the Christ in you. In that way, we are all innocent. We are all "the sonship" or God's only "son". I'm not there yet but when I let Jesus be my guide, it gets easier to truly forgive instead of to judge (they are exact opposites)

If you are a cop you might have to shoot someone, but by practicing forgiveness you know that the "separation" is really an illusion projected out of our own fear and guilt. Eventually we will wake from the dream, but it has to be ALL of us --if you wanna leave anyone behind then you're still stuck in the movie of death, fear and vengeance.

Anonymous said...

Certainly Jesus washed Judas' feet as well...what was he going to do, refuse to do so and expose Judas' betrayal? That's integral to the story! He can't very well wash everyone's feet BUT Judas.

But the key point is that you don't see Jesus washing Pontius Pilate's feet, which would be the closest approximation to this painting. The people in the painting are by and large political (give to Caesar what is Caesar's...). Jesus would not have washed their feet. He would certainly have met with them and delivered his cryptic pearls of wisdom...but wash their feet, no.

The entire reason for Jesus washing the apostles' feet is to instill in them the fullness of humility that is essential to Christianity: Jesus as servant leader. Along with the cross, the washing of the feet is a powerful image of God humbling godself to save humanity. The apostles want to serve God, and Jesus says, "then you must serve one another".

Nick Jones said...

Emily, thanks for bringing this to light. You made some great points and your responses to some of these comments were right on point.

Seems like some people have forgotten that Christ, who was in his very nature God, made himself nothing to take on the nature of a servant.


Thanks so much and swing by my blog sometime.

Emily Hunter McGowin said...


I think there is an important point to be heard in the reminder that Jesus specifically washed the feet of his followers. This is an important difference between that specific occasion and the painting. Also, I hear the qualification that those in the painting are political leaders and Jesus certainly was not in the habit of "serving" political leaders in his day.

That said, however, I think it is possibly a point of the painting to force us to see these political leaders, who represent a number of things to us, as persons--persons for whom Christ died and persons whom Jesus would serve if they would receive his service. Before Jesus, upon whom all of them are dependent for grace and mercy, these various political leaders are equalized. If they want a part of Jesus, he must wash their feet, and they must eat his flesh and drink his blood.

Those are my thoughts for now. Thanks for the good comments.


Anonymous said...

I find it sad that us mere mortals pretend to comprehend "what jesus would have done". We have no idea. There are messages of good and evil in the bible, but from my perspective, which may be wrong, the overwhelming message of christ is to forgive, turn the other cheek and help those in need.

UnderMidnight said...

National hatred.

Someday our sun is going to die and it's going to frag our entire planet. The whole thing, the whole freaking planet will be swallowed into a ball of fire that is our dying sun and then it's gone.
All of this won't matter. No matter whose will triumphs because we're all dead anyway.
We are a speck in some obscure galaxy in the middle of nowhere and someday we are all going to die along with our solar system.

God forbid we work together to see if we can find a way out if this fix we're in.

Keith Johnson said...

With 25-years in prison ministry, I receive the same flack as this painting, so I came up with these questions to expose one's belief system, hoping they would address it and ask the Holy Spirit to help them climb to a higher spiritual level. Legalism, to me, it the inability to insert MERCY into one's belief system. That "love and mercy" is considered "weak."

The Four Questions…

1.) What if I told you that your youngest child was murdered? Would you want mercy or justice for the perpetrator?

2.) What if I told you that the murderer was your oldest child? Would you want mercy or justice for the perpetrator?

3.) What if I told you that you are guilty of the murder of the only begotten Son of God? Would you want mercy or justice as the perpetrator?

4.) What if I told you that you had a daughter, your only daughter, the apple of your eye, who has never given you a moment’s grief. Tonight, you have your tux hanging in the closet, because tomorrow you are scheduled to walk your daughter down the aisle and give her away to someone whom you approve? If you’re the mother, you have your new dress hanging next to the gown that you have been planning and preparing for since the first time she held her in her arms. But tonight, your daughter is at a bachelorette party with her peers and they talk her into having “one-for-the-road,” the first ever in her life. Two, three, four, five, six, seven (drinks) later, while on her way home, she wipes out a school bus full of little children on their way to camp. Everybody aboard the bus dies in a fiery inferno, but you daughter survives. Do you want mercy or justice for your daughter (?) and what do those that are related to those who were on bus want? (Revenge, only in a Madison Avenue Package, called Justice.)

The moral of the story is…
The carnal heart has an ingrained sense of justice as long as it doesn’t apply to them or theirs. That is self-righteousness and hypocrisy! Furthermore, Satan knows that God will only forgive us according to our willingness to forgive others. The irony of the whole thing is – “we’re all family.”

As we have received God’s mercy – so are we to bestow the same mercy towards others. “Freely you have received, freely give.” We can hate the sin, but we must love the sinner for “we war not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities in high places.”

AmeBenit said...

Hello Keith Johnson. I appreciate your comments and many of the others. In response to your response I guess I have to ask the following questions

1) What if your home were broken into and the burglars are intent on stealing your goods and killing the witnesses. Should you get involved in whatever course of action you can follow to insure you and your children will share breakfast tomorrow morning? Is it about justice or self-preservation? If we did not have the knowledge of good and evil, what would be the automatic response?

2) What if, in the above scenario it were your son, intent on murder?

3) Every man/woman is born a sinner and is guilty of the blood of Jesus Christ. I am forever greatful that His judgement was for mercy and grace.
What if I could have died in His stead? Would I have done so to prevent the savage death of our Lord?

4) Did the devil give us the need to protect ourselves by the instinct of self preservation? Or did the devil give us the awful burden of having to decide if killing a deviant intent on murdering you is a sin or not. Judgement, that is what the devil gave us. The absolute requirement in our nature to have to weigh between what is good or bad, better or worse, a curse or a blessing...

Probably the intensity of my comments comes from the liberal twist given to that event in the Gospels where Jesus demonstrated that He would be a servant to His beloved, (yes, even Judas). He did make it clear that those deserving of His service could only obtain by believing in Him.

This washing of the feet of His disciples is not designed to demonstrate the turn the other cheek principal, or the "good Samaritan" parable. All accurate and good for our knowledge and love for God. But, I think this washing of the feet is so much more significant, and perhaps the disciples might have missed the entire purpose of why Jesus layed Himself down on the cross for the eternal benefit of all who would follow Him in laying themselves down of the cross of their desires, their needs, their wishes and dreams.

As a little kid, I was challenged at church often by the priest. If it came right down to it, would I trade places with Jesus if I could?

And, would I be willing to die for my belief that Jesus is the Christ? Remember your reaction to this question. You may have an opportunity to prove it much sooner than you think.

There is a great distinction in the Word between murder and self-preservation. God was harsh on idol worshippers, and often destroyed entire nations because they were a threat to the "fledgling" eaglettes coming out of Egypt into the land of Promise. But the judgement has now been turned onto the Chosen, because they continued in idol worship. God is merciful. The Chosen shall be redeemed from the evil one who confuses and twists the minds and thought processes of even the very elect.

The picture, in my estimation, has more to do with the number of candidates seeking our support and endorsement by aligning themselves with religion, Christ, and religious ethics. Be not deceived!
Remember that your votes are pearls of great value. Don't cast them before swine.

Choose carefully with full information and direction of the Holy Spirit. Yeah? said...

Response to Ame's questions...
Jesus said, "He who tries to save his life, shall lose it, but he who loses it for My sake, shall gain." So, I don't see self-preservation as a priority for the committed Christian. If Paul or Stephen were worried about self-preservation, they wouldn't have gone out and witnessed, they would have just stayed in bed, under the covers. Jesus said, "the world hated me, they will hate you." So, our legacy is to my maligned and falsely accused. Can we stand the heat. A major prison gang that doesn't respect the Bible asked me, "So, how's your wife?" That is not a question of concern, but a covert threat. Growing up in Chicago, I was taught force, fear, intimidation and manipulation by the best. I knew what they were implying; I answered, "She's not afraid to die in Christ either; so how's your's?" Since they didn't see fear in my eyes, they were willing to talk, because they no longer looked as Christianity as "Weak."

To have someone break into my house and kill the witnesses, first thing I do is thank and praise God for bringing someone to witness, too. Then we do like Stephen, we pray, "Father, hold this not against them," and sleep in Jesus. Out of the war, awaiting the resurrection.

Stephen, Paul, Jerome, Hess, Luther were not afraid to die. Self-preservation is no longer a priority to those who have surrendered their lives to the Godhead. We were bought with great price, our bodies are no longer our own, but Christ's to do with what He wants, when He wants for the Glory of God and the advancement of the Gospel. We are no longer in survival mode, but sacrificial mode, ready to lay down our lives in a moments notice.

AmeBenit said...

Hello again Keith Johnson.

I have no doubt that as one called to the prison ministry you may have a different perspective on self-defense. The Holy Spirit in you has given you a certain boldness that is necessary to do the work you do. It is God in you, His servant that responds in this manner.

Please don't take offense at this. But in reality where does one draw the line between reckless disregard for our human life and following the prompting of the Holy Spirit in the willing laying down of our life.

If you put a sign on your car that says "Jesus is my driver", and proceed to disregard the rules of the road and in general be reckless with that vehicle, is it not a perversion of the intent of the meaning, Jesus is my driver?

We will have tribulation. Our earthly flesh lives are not eternal. We need not concern ourselves with preserving our earthly bodies. So why are Christians so adamant about smoking, exercise, diet and the food we eat? Why are they involved in cleaning up the earth? Stopping the emissions of fossil fuels and the planting of trees? Why do we insist that our children get enough sleep and drink enough water and exercise enough to be healthy?

We had a situation in Denver a couple of weeks ago where an angry and misled ex-member of the YWAM training facility shot and killed members of that group and then proceeded to another church a few miles away and killed 2 other members of a congregation coming out of service. He was shot and killed by a member of that church who was a volunteer of that church to provide security to members of that congregation. If she had not shot and killed this individual, many others would have lost their lives to this nut, who had lost his way. Can we assume that turning the other cheek might have spared any who were killed? How many would possibly have come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ if the 4 at YWAM had not died. They were on their way to a dangerous assignment for God. Young missionaries. Yes, they were prepared to lay down their lives to share the Good News with those in the 10/40 window who think Christians are heathens and are better off dead. That, was a calling from God.

When God and Jesus were talking about the coming crucifixtion, and the words, glorify me, came from God to Jesus, the word glorify means to make reknowned. The millenia since that event and the resurrection have proven to make God reknowned.

1Cr 6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.

It's not about being afraid to die. For whatever work God has layed to the life you were created by Him for, be prepared to do whatever is necessary to fulfill His reason for your existence. If it be to turn the other cheek, in love that God feels for the one abusing you or mistreating you, in order that God's message shall go forth to glorify Him, then there is a blessing in that for both.

When reading the scriptures, one must apply Spiritual understanding, and wisdom.

This line of posting has drifted far away from the "Radical Jesus" comments at the start. Self preservation ... not fear, is part of the "be fruitful and multiply" commandment first given and again repeated throughout the Word of God. It is hard to be fruitful and muliply if you are dead.

The work you do, I have friends involved in this work. The greater danger in this work is to one becoming discouraged and not seeing the kind of fruit they "think" they should. The battle for good is often wearing. May God sustain you, protect you, and empower you always as you serve in this ministry.

Keith A. Johnson said...

I teach Dr. Lawrence Kohlberg's "Six Levels of Moral Development," which I have incorporated along with 1 Corinthians 13 in the prisons. God has had His hand on me my whole life. Through abusive step-fathers, and growing up in the streets of Chicago, and through the Marines during Vietnam. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death; I will fear no evil for Thou art with me." The 23rd Psalm was the first verses that I had to memorize when I was little, and the fourth verse says, that we're NOT to be afraid of anything at anytime. So, when my first step-father would beat my mom until she lost an eye (they divorced when I was 9) and then wave a pistol at us, I wouldn't give him the satisfaction of me being afraid. I hated him too much. God had to heal me of that, too.

I pick up hitchhikers, most of them turn out to be convicted felons, so I always have an opportunity to witness to them. I refuse to allow anything to rob me of the freedom that I have in Christ. God didn't give us a spirit of fear, but love, power and a sound mind...and Perfect love casts out all fear.

I don't smoke, haven't had a drink in over 27-years, didn't do A.A., I just saw what it did to my mother, who died an alcoholic and the insanity that went along with it.

Going inside the prisons is like standing on the corner in the neighborhood. I grew up in a home that was an emotional nightmare and 1 Corinthians 13, healed me. I've composed my 31-steps to Freedom (the last step - "To wear my heart on my sleeve and NOT BE vulnerable"), along with my "four questions" (above), because these are the areas where God healed me. The inmates tell me that nobody comes into the prisons teaching what I teach, because they attend every study. 1 Corinthians 13 is what separates professed believers from true believers.

I learned from the Bible that the disciples RAN from the demoniac, but Jesus didn't. After Christ's death and His assension, they didn't run anymore. I don't pick up hitchhikers to tempt God, but I pick them up only when I'm alone so as not to infringe on other people's choices. I respect where they're at. I love to witness for Lord and share my testimony, especially the wonderful things that the Lord has done in my life.

AmeBenit said...

Thank you for sharing your story/testimony.

As I said, being led by the Holy Spirit in such activities as you describe is the most important part of what you do. Follow God's lead.

Not many are led to be so great a risk taker. It was a sure thing when Jesus went to the cross. He knew it was coming. He had planned it and expected that is what would be necessary. No man could "stand in the gap" and reconcile man to God. None good enough, strong enough, righteous enough.

I'm glad that God gave us His Holy Spirit to guide us, comfort us, give us wisdom, strengthen us when needed, and when we don't know what to do, bring God's power and wisdom to work in our lives as He wills.

I myself am headed out to the Mediterannean next year on mission. Wisdom, strength of character, love, grace, peace will be the prayers I have for myself and my team. I do not have anything in my plans for allowing our lives to be taken for the satisfaction of the devil, unless I know that I know it will glorify my Father in heaven. Unless I know that I know that I am to lay down my life for my brethren or that God will be reknowned because of it.

Daily tasks of feeding the poor, distributing medicines and clothing, and helping with the construction of wells... it does put us in the line of fire. Pray for us as I pray for you.