It is a disturbing image: Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, profoundly disappointed in the religious establishment that was charged with shepherding God’s people. (Luke 19:41-44)
It is easy to join in heaping blame on the “scribes and Pharisees” who are usually cast as the bad guys.
But I do want to talk about sin.
Despite all that I was taught about sin offending God, sin separating us from God, and so on, what motivates me to avoid sin is not belief in some column of misdeeds in some divine bookkeeping system. When I am mindful enough to forego temptation, the idea of God’s sadness over our selfish, death-dealing ways is what helps.
The religious leaders Jesus encountered mostly spurned his message of love for them and all the world. God’s chosen ones had amended God’s simple laws of love and well-being so many times that it took a professional to keep track of them. They insisted on making religion about judgment and power.
What if we imagine Jesus weeping over our hard-heartedness?
Our sins are essentially modern versions of the power-hungry, judgmental ways of Jesus’ detractors. What if we imagined Jesus critiquing our non-acceptance of God’s love message?
So, here goes, Jesus says —
- “I tried to get you to understand that people are more important than rules when I freed a woman from her infirmity on the Sabbath. But you were not willing. You’d rather keep score.
- “I called you to repentance, to turn away from the pursuits of money, prestige, and control—all those things that make you serve them but never satisfy. I called you instead to a way of love and trust. But you were not willing. You were suspicious of my motives.
- “I described God’s ways to you, what I call the kingdom of God. It is the powerful, life-giving force that fuels an exciting, world-changing adventure. My unstoppable love is the essence of this life I call you to follow. But you were not willing. You chose mediocrity instead.
- “I told you not to be afraid of those who can kill the body, or your reputation, or your 401K. I asked you to trust me enough to give your life for my sake. But you were not willing. You’d rather keep your life for yourself, even though in keeping it, it is devoid of meaning.
- “I taught you that to love me is to love the least of these my brothers and sisters, my term for the poor and oppressed and discouraged with whom I identify. You saw the joy and wonder of those I healed, blessed, forgave. You knew how much I love them. I asked you to love them too. But you were not willing. You didn’t have time.
- “I prepared a life for you.I encouraged you to partner with me and to leave your unique stamp on the world. I could have used you to bless many. Your part would have been hard, but not nearly as hard as following a course you were not fitted to follow. I used many ways to invite you to the adventure. But you were not willing. Instead you defined your own version of adventure and comfort, so you missed out on the amazing, Spirit-filled experiences you could have recounted to your grandchildren as a testimony to my faithfulness.
- “I provided ways for you to know me intimately, to be captivated by my relentless love. I gave you my Scriptures to read for this purpose. But you were not willing. You thought it would be too boring.
- “I poured out my grace on you in your baptism, offering you the gift of belonging in the church, where you agreed to be set apart from the world, marked by love for one another. But you were not willing. You thought it was enough to hire someone else to do the work of the gospel on your behalf.
- “I taught you to pray. But you were not willing. You were too tired.
- “I gave you spiritual gifts for the building up of my church, so you could know the pleasure of participating in the greatest project ever undertaken: radically changing the world with the power of my love. I called you to share my love with your community, so its families, its marginalized, its disillusioned, its exhausted people could be renewed in hope. But you were not willing to use your gifts for this purpose. You chose to use them for your own ideals instead.
- “I created a world of beauty to reveal my goodness to you. I made it productive so that you could use its resources to be sure that everyone had enough. But you were not willing. You bought into the notion that some can have more than others, and that’s just the way things are.
- “I asked you to take up your cross and follow me. But you were not willing. You said I was asking too much.”
We sometimes refer to the trade-offs of following Jesus as the cost of discipleship. I once read what Dallas Willard said about the cost of “nondiscipleship” that has motivated me more times than I can count:
Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God’s overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, it costs exactly that abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring (John 10:10). The cross-shaped yoke of Christ is after all an instrument of liberation and power to those who live in it with him and learn the meekness and lowliness of heart that brings rest to the soul…The correct perspective is to see following Christ not only as the necessity it is, but as the fulfillment of the highest human possibilities and as life on the highest plane.
The “your best life” people tout these days is a way of love, of sacrifice, of compassion and purpose. It is the way of Jesus the Christ.
Into the Wild
He never said, “Be safe.”
He saw what they did
with the life-giving Law,
its walls now
closing in on souls
meant to roam free.
Perhaps his tears over the city
were not for all her wanderings,
but for her fear,
her lack of wonder,
her contentment with the small,
of scrupulous obedience.
He shook her at her core,
tumbled the Temple,
untamed and trembling
with wild rage.
His love, uncaged,
invites us out to wilderness
where questions lurk,
beyond the lushness of the Law.
He calls us to the Temple
of the quiet
and the lack,
where holiness stands ready
to expose and tame the
inner, hidden greed
Tables turned to see
The heart tumbles out
and falls into the hands
that catch us and make us