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jesus the radical pastor | exploring the life and mission of the 1st century Jesus for our 21st century

Readers of the Bible discover very soon that the Bible is a messy book. Chocked full of stories—some familiar and others quite odd—and poetry about all kinds of subjects—speech, sex, enemies, searing pain and God—and enigmatic apocalyptic images with fire-breathing dragons and tattoos on the thigh of Son of God, the Bible distances itself from tidy Daily Bread devotionals and crisp, clean “principles” to support an anemic middle-class American life.

We don’t like mess. So we have pursued the self-appointed task of cleaning the Bible up. First, we categorize stuff. Like separating the pieces of a jig-saw puzzle according to color. We end up with piles of verses here and there, but have no clue about the “big picture’ they are supposed to offer. We like our little piles of verses here and there because we can ignore the picture they show us of God, of sin, of our self-absorbed selves. We also miss the variegated colors of grace, redemption and Jesus’ wildly radical life.

The Jesus most of us know is a theological construct whose most important, if not only role is “to get us to heaven when we die.” All that spitting and making mud, all his fierce rebellion from Jewish custom, all his simple stories for the very common people–these things are marginal to his ability to get us to glory at death (or more excitingly, at the rapture).

In the meantime, we die of the commercialization of everything we say, do and have, even the Christian faith. We hunger for the Midas touch. We flee the Messiah’s touch. We die while standing against abortion and same-sex marriage. We die of suffocating entertainment. We die of every diversion possible from encountering the scary God of the messy, messy Bible and the wild-eyed Son of God. We must tidy up God and the Bible so we can maintain our tidy, meaningless lives, gorging ourselves daily while thousands die of starvation and lack of clean water. Most of our TV commercials are sexless pornography.

Seeing Jesus, exalted with fire-shooting eyes, no longer causes us to fall down as dead. Not us, no. We merely yawn from boredom. Spielberg is so much more entertaining.

There is hope. A host of new Jesus-followers are discovering that the messy Bible fits wonderfully to our messy lives. That even some of the “giants” of the faith lived messy lives: Abraham and Sarah, Jacob, Moses, David, Peter and Paul were flawed. God likes mess and where God finds sterile cleanness God most likely will make a mess. Jesus would rather be in the brawl of arguing parents at the pee-wee T-ball game than in cushioned pews of the pristine church populated by the “good” people. Like Ken Medema sang, “…the kingdom comes in the streets.”

Oh, God, don’t let us be the ones who hear Jesus say in the face of our tidy, clean Christian lives, “Depart from me, you evil-doers. You strained at the cultural gnats and swallowed the camels. I (the real, wild-eyed Jesus) never knew you.”

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