Introducing my latest guest writer on the blog today, my Kiwi friend, Jon Slack! I met Jon and his colourful and lovely Norwegian wife, Mari, a couple years ago while living in New Zealand with YWAM. They had recently moved back to Christchurch, after years serving YWAM Brisbane, Australia. Today, Jon challenges us to see Jesus and people in a new light, and live with a new perspective. Jon likes to do that. Challenge you. Ruffle your feathers a little! Here’s Jon…
“You are the light of the world.”
And you know what? We get it. Jesusold us that we are the ones the world looks to to see his light. Sure, sometimes we don’t shine as bright as we should, but we at least recognise our role as light givers to this dark world.
Jesus’ saying can also be read from a different angle. When the world goes to see what Jesus – and what God himself – is like, they see us. They see the church. They see us in all our brokenness, in all our fragility, in all our stubbornness and hurt. But they also see us in our joy and passion, in our willingness to perceiver, in our desire for transformation, in our journeys of redemption. Maybe the light is a little dim at times, but its still shining pretty bright.
It’s also through us that the world comes to see what Jesus feels towards different groups; how we respond tells people how Jesus responds. So, when people look at how we act towards certain groups what can they see?
They see a Jesus who cares for the poor. How do they see that? Our record may not be perfect, but we sure are making an effort to use our wealth to bless others. World Vision, Compassion International and such ministries (not to mention the millions of supporters with pictures of African kids on the fridge) show that the poor and needy matter to Jesus.
They see a Jesus who cares for the lost. How? Through the many ministries that seek to share the gospel. Through the many believers willing to befriend strangers. Through those who, in our feeble attempts, manage to share who our Jesus is to us and why he matters.
They see a Jesus who cares for outsiders, those who do not ‘belong.’ How? By the fact that Christians seldom see God as being solely “our god”, as if he is somehow our possession. Instead, we see God’s blessings being for all and therefore share indiscriminately.
They see a Jesus who cares for youth. How? Because we provide room for them to grow, to be nurtured, to cause trouble. They see a Jesus who cares for the elderly. How? Because we are those who don’t forget them, who provide places of rest for them. They see a Jesus who cares for the disabled. How? Because we don’t shun them but welcome them into the community, treating them as equally human. They see a Jesus who cares for the troubled. How? Because we provide counsel and support, love and guidance.
There is, however, a group we have largely forgotten about. Or, perhaps we just don’t want to think about them. And before you make a guess as to where I’m going, your probably wrong. Yes, there are many groups we could do a better job with (including those I mentioned above), but one that seldom comes on the Christian radar is the new agers. For years we have ranted about how dangerous this movement is, but very few of us have taken the time to ask Jesus how he sees them. In my country of New Zealand I know of no ministry focusing on this group. There are a couple in Australia, the USA and the UK, but they are pretty scarce. Yet, estimates suggest that new agers will eventually outnumber Christians in the western world. And, funnily enough, our response to the movement is about 3 decades out of date!
If we were to look at the churches’ response, the ones called to mirror Jesus to this world, we would conclude that Jesus has no interest in new agers.
Imagine if the world Jesus explored was to crash into our world. Who do we picture Jesus meeting? We have no trouble seeing him dine with tax collectors, and can happily picture him enjoying an evening at Denny’s with a group of sleezy business men. We take no issue with him blessing prostitutes, so the notion of Jesus spending evenings in the red light district of Bangkok seems natural. We are delighted to read how he healed the lame, diseased, demonized – people on the margins of society because of their ailments – so we wouldn’t be shocked if Jesus were to spend extra time in hospitals or even hanging out with beneficiaries, ex-cons, single mothers, drug addicts, Bieber-fans.
If we find it so easy to imagine Jesus entering into these elements of our world, why have so few of us ever imagined him entering a new age fair, a hippie store, a tarot reading booth? Perhaps its because there are no neat parallels in the gospels that bridge from Jesus’ world to this new-age element of today’s world. … Well, actually, that simply isn’t the case. In fact, there was one group Jesus interacted with that profoundly parallels the new agers of our day. For Jews, the Samaritans were a deviant group who had lost their way; they should have known better, but they had distorted the truth and gone totally off track. Without going into detail, new agers should be seen as the ‘Samaritans’ of our western world.
Suddenly the Gospels have a lot to say about how Jesus would interact with hippies today. Think of the new age women at the well (John 4). Jesus doesn’t leap to rebuke her, but enters into a gracious dialogue. He doesn’t leap to correct her as soon as she says something questionable, but instead uses her faulty perspective to point to himself. He doesn’t throw a bunch of christianese at her, but uses her own language to reveal his identity. Suddenly we discover that Jesus would have approached new agers quite differently to us Christians.
It’s time for a change. As Jesus’ hands and feet, its time for us to GO to where these people are and embrace them, just as Jesus would.
*Photo Credit: Free Artistic Photos, Creative Commons
About the Author:
Jon is a globe-trotting, God loving, missionally minded New Zealander whose purpose in life is to train and equip disciples who will go out and engage with God, embracing his visions for the world. Presently Jon is involved in leadership training with YWAM Oxford, teaching at Laidlaw Bible College, co-writing a book about Jesus and the religions, as well as contemplating writing a Masters thesis on the Gospel and the New Spirituality. Facebook and Twitter.