There’s an App for That

This past Sunday I posted an entry that addressed some of the things I’ve been wrestling with. “Wrestling” in the sense that I keep finding myself being floored by and asking forgiveness for the disservices and injustices that Christians do in the name of Christ. And oh, I know I am not without blame! I know I often acknowledge Jesus with my lips and then deny Him in the way that I live. …these are some of the things I wrestle with. Daily.

So I posted Sunday’s blog entry, which was an article by Shane Claiborne, from Esquire Magazine. Little did I know that I’d go to church to hear a message from one of the teaching pastors at our church, which is doing a series called “There’s an App for That”. This message starts out by talking about how religious people have a tendency to do ungodly things. And that if we struggle with religion, that’s good. Because Jesus did too. In the gospels, every harsh word that Jesus ever spoke was directed toward the religious. And the religious were the people who put Him on the cross.

The teaching came from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:3-12. The pastor taught that through the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was establishing His criteria for who will inherit His kingdom. And those criteria flew in the faces of all the religious elite of the day. Rather than giving a long list of “dos and don’ts” Jesus establishes a way of life. He’s offering people an invitation to come to Him, and learn from Him the unforced rhythms of grace (Matthew 11:28).

Jesus says that the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness sake will inherit His kingdom.

However, we live in a world where the confident, the charismatic, the talented, the affluent, the wise, the strong, the violent, the powerful, the fastest and the best are all exalted. However, God uses (and has always used) the foolish things of the world to shame the wise and the weak things to shame the strong (I Corinthians 1:27). In God’s economy, it does not matter one bit how attractive we are, how intelligent we are, how athletic we are. It does not matter if we can play the game or not, or if we can win friends and influence people. All that matters is the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

As Sunday’s post said,

…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.

The 8 Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount describe a way of life that is permeated with the character of Jesus and with the grace of God.

Father, may my life be permeated with Jesus and with Your grace.

If you’re interested, you can watch the video of “Religion: There’s an App for That” here.