When you grow up learning about Jesus, he seems like a normal guy. Perhaps nicer than the rest of us, but basically mainstream. This is because whatever you grow up with seems normal. But nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus shocked and awed people all the time. Jesus’ kindness was eye-popping and boundary shattering,
1. Jesus spoke with outcasts.
There was nobody that Jesus wouldn’t speak with. Earlier this week I wrote a bit about Jesus speaking with a Samaritan woman at a well around noon. (CLICK HERE for the full post: Avoid These 3 Mistakes When Reading the Bible (B183)) This woman was an outcast. She was at the well alone. The well is usually a communal spot. She was alone because it was noon. This means she has chosen not to be around the other women of her town because water was usually drawn in the morning. A typical Jewish male would identify her as a Samaritan and a woman, which is two more strikes against her. Yet Jesus not only speaks with her but asks her to draw him some water. Jesus’ disciples returned near the end of Jesus’ conversation. The Bible tells us they were “surprised to find him talking with a woman.” (CLICK HERE to read the entire account as recorded in John 1:1-42)
Jesus spoke with a woman caught in adultery. (And where was the man??) Jesus spoke with a pharisee who snuck out to see him at night. Jesus spoke with demon-possessed people. Jesus was conversationally open. He drew no boundaries for “appropriate company.”Jesus spoke with outcasts. Click To Tweet
2. Jesus used children as examples for adults.
I think most parents in most cultures throughout history have loved their children. But Jesus believed that adults can learn something from children.
[Jesus] called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. — Matthew 18:2-4 (NIV)
How many times have you shouted (or wanted to shout), “Grow up!” How many times have you suggested to someone that he become more like a child? If you sit with this for a while, you will find that what Jesus is doing with this little child really goes against the grain.
3. Jesus forgave people who did horrible things to him, even as they were doing them.
There are perhaps no words to come out of Jesus’ mouth more startling than the words he spoke regarding those crucifying him:
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. — Luke 23:34 (NIV)
How shocking is that? I have trouble forgiving people for cutting me off on the freeway!
Jesus forgave people who did horrible things to him, even as they were doing them. Click To TweetDon’t just write this off by saying, “Well, that was Jesus.” Jesus’ followers said the same thing:
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he [died]. — Acts 7:59-60 (NIV)
This kind of forgiving heart doesn’t happen instantly. It happens through realizing and living in God’s love and forgiveness toward you. God’s love for you works on your heart to desire the best for others around you, even when they are not treating you well. You realize that people who are hurting you are acting out of ignorance or pain. Hurting people need the same love and redemption that you need. With practice — including things like prayer, confession and meditation — forgiveness can become your automatic response toward people who hurt you. (Forgiveness also leads to a longer, healthy life. CLICK HERE to read my blog post on the science of forgiveness.)
Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried. GKC Click To TweetJesus was a mind-blower, no doubt about it. He was a respected rabbi who spoke with outcasts, used children as examples, and forgave the people who were executing him even as they were doing it. Jesus calls his followers to be mind-blowers of the same order. Wow. I can’t help but close this post with a quote from G.K. Chesterton:
Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried. — Gilbert K. Chesterton
If you fancy yourself a follower of Jesus, here some questions you might reflect on:
- Who are you hesitant to talk to? Someone who dresses a certain way? Has piercings? Tattoos? Is older? Is younger? Looks shabby? Looks too nice?
- How can you grow more like a child? Do you need to treat others differently based on what Jesus said about children?
- What practice(s) in your life encourage you to grow toward greater forgiveness? Do you need to add a practice?