Jesus led a revolution without guns and without placards. It wasn’t the revolution the Jews hoped for, the one where the Messiah would come in glory and grandeur, and frighten away the occupying forces, restoring Israel to a position of power and prestige. It wasn’t even the non-violent political resistance we associate with activism today.
Jesus turned the world upside down with the way he treated people.
He empowered the disempowered.
He loved the unlovable.
He honoured the dishonourable.
Jesus gave a voice to the voiceless. He placed value on women, children, servants, foreigners – those without status or value in the social order of the day. He chose the sick, the marginalised, the ostracised, and made them his ambassadors. He raised the social standing of the outcast and rejected. He was more likely to offend and irritate those in power than to suck up to them.
Jesus didn’t play the game by the usual rules.
Over and over again, Jesus’ teachings and actions were about reversing the established social order, changing the balance of where we place our regard and esteem. He told us the last would be first, and the first would be last. He used prostitutes, widows and outsiders as examples to shame the religious and self-righteous. He used the word “blessed” to describe the poor, the meek, the persecuted. In town after town, as he travelled, he encountered “the least of these” and empowered them, dignified them, publicly affirmed them – showing up the unloving, unjust imbalance of our social order. In the end, Jesus gave the most precious gift he had – his life – to redeem the worthlessness of our lives. He died as he lived – intentionally lifting up the lost, the weak and the needy.
Jesus displayed a revolutionary, upside down way of seeing the social order that simply doesn’t make sense to us. He turned the system on its head.
We’ve done our best to turn it the right way up since then.
In our churches today, we choose the brightest, the best, the talented and persuasive, and place them on a stage.
We turn the lights up on the performers, and dim the lights over the audience.
We strive for excellence over authenticity and honesty.
We empower pastors and leaders, and unintentionally disempower everyone else.
We are widely known for publicly condemning the hurting, the lost and the marginalised, adding to their humiliation and shame by drawing attention to their ‘sins’.
It’s time for the church to rediscover Jesus’ obsession with “the least of these”. It’s time for us to intentionally empower those on the fringes, those who are undervalued, unloved and unheard. It’s time to publicly place value on the marginalised, the poor, the weak, the mentally ill and the disempowered.
It’s time to join the revolution.