I have no fancy letters behind my name, I barely completed Baylor with a 2.75 GPA and couldn’t get hired thereafter college to save my new marriage. In fact, I don’t know why they let me into Baylor other than the grace of God in the form of my Sunday School teacher, Mary Burch, who drove me down, set up some meetings, and helped me figure out how to work as a student. My life has been grace upon grace. Am I smart? Yes. Creative? No doubt. Resourceful? My middle name is “Scrappy”. Hard working? Depends on what I’m working for. So before you go any further reading, you should really decide whether or not you want to listen. I am no theologian. My only qualification, like a couple of apostles I read about, is that I am an untrained person who has been with Jesus.
Jesus has lead me, my husband, my children, on a road of listening hard and long to broken stories, broken hearts, broken lives, broken systems, broken churches, broken people - of which we are first in line. He led us to listen to women in the sex industry because 1. God knew I could lean my chair in toward the woman who has been neglected, abused, objectified and molested. God knew my heart would respond empathetically. But, 2. God knew that in learning from her, I would see the entire world differently. She became our teacher to not only see ourselves, but to see the broken systems in the world. Because when you listen to those on the outside, your insides change. Jesus knew this, which is why he modeled it in his life and ministry and told us to pick up our Cross and follow Him.
Now, what about this Cross? What about Jesus? Is this Way really what I signed up for in when I was 8 years old at camp? Is this death to rights, comforts, addictions, and all evils truly what I’ve given myself over to? IF I have said “Yes” to Jesus then here’s to looking at my new life according to Jesus in Matthew 11:
I will be sent out like a sheep among wolves. I must beware of men who will deliver me over to courts and flog me in the religious establishments, I will be dragged before politicians and authorities because of the Gospel of Christ. I will experience division in my family of origin and my in-laws because of Jesus, because of the confrontation of evil - son against father and mother against daughter. My love and allegiance to my family will be challenged because of Jesus, and my commitment to Christ must be first. In fact, my enemies will be those of my own household. I am not to fear. What Jesus tells me in the dark, I must say in the light of day and what I hear Him whisper to me, I must proclaim on every rooftop I can stand on.
Seems a little salty. Matter of fact, more like sandpaper. Jesus did not profess allegiance to the political regime of his day. He didn’t tow any party line. Jesus was respectful to people, not broken systems - like touching women, the dead, lepers, and dining with “sinners”. He turned over tables and called them names like “whitewashed tombs”. He picked wheat when he wasn’t supposed to. He was angry - but without sin. Jesus didn’t just protest the system, He brought the Kingdom to bear within it. The apostle Paul was continually beaten by government regimes, jailed, brought before Caesar, shared his testimony, is brought again before the Jews as a fanatic of The Way (a crazy cooky sect that follows Jesus). Paul continually rails against the governing laws of the day but then says to us in Romans 13 to “be subject to the governing authorities”. Keep reading, “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.”
But what if your rulers ARE terror not just to good conduct, but merely to being yourself? What about when civil liberties are taken away? What about when systemic oppression exists? What about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who would not bow down to an idol? I bet they wouldn’t have stood with their hands over their hearts and sung the Babylon anthem either. What about in Acts 4-5 when Peter and John were told to quit talking about Jesus and they said “Nope. Not gonna do it.” (total paraphrase). What about when Hitler ruled and one of our Christian brothers, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was on the oppressors hit squad? Dietrich was hung because of this, just days before the American liberation of POW camps. Perhaps you’re thinking, “but their resistance was for the name of God or Jesus, not civil liberties!” But isn’t religious freedom one of our civil liberties, one for which we, as Americans, revolted against Britain? Didn’t we build a better country, fleeing religious oppression? Yes! Except that we oppressed an entire race to build our freedom. This is where our history’s inception gets really hairy and according to the Scriptures, “you reap what you sow.” #karma
Here’s what we know according to Jesus: apparently we are really good at interpreting weather forecasts but not really good at getting the pulse on how God is currently at work in the world (again, my paraphrase Luke 13:54-59). We want to argue position rather than listen to each others interests. A history professor at Baylor, Dr. Beth Barr, recently told me that when her students get in debates regarding current topics, she usually brings in a story from history. She told me, “there’s not nearly the fear in discussing controversial topics in history because we have survived them and the conflict has been resolved. There’s a common truth that humanity has landed on as to whether the fallout was true and just, or corrupt and evil.” I hid that truth in my heart so I could remember it in times like these. I know, according to the Holy Scriptures and history itself, that racism is evil. I know according the writings and teachings of Martin Luther King Junior, that he loved Jesus and modeled Christ-like behavior. Yet, most white people in the southern states resisted the Civil Rights movement, including white churches and I would presume, much of my family. I know according to history that Brown vs. Board of Education was ruled fairly. YET, many schools were formed AFTER this ruling to limit access to black students - including my hometown high school, Robert E. Lee in Tyler, Texas of which I was named Ms. Robert E. Lee in 1996. After the Brown vs. Board ruling, my high school was built as far from “black town” as possible, cloaked in a confederate flag, given a Rebel mascot with young men dressed up in Civil War uniforms to fire off a cannon at football games. Again, this school was built AFTER the government ruled in favor of this law. (They are considering changing the name - learn more here.)
Was Tyler, TX resisting government authority? Why was it okay for them to build a school that flew in the face of this law, but it’s not okay now for players to take a knee during the national anthem?
This is tense stuff. How do we respond as people of The Way, that crazy cooky sect that got Paul, Dietrich, and these modern day martyrs killed? Scriptures state our allegiance to Christ and His Kingdom supersedes all else. So, what is the message of Christ? I think love is the truest, but hardest recipe.
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” to the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
IN THIS SPIRIT: Jesus Said Love is inviting every person to participate in “Love Letters” to unleash a movement of Christ’s LOVE and Light on this earth. We had this idea a few weeks ago, but apparently today is “Love Note Day” so now it’s a no-brainer. Duh, we’re doing it.
Share the LOVE!