“How do you move on?
You move on when your heart finally understands
that there is no turning back.”
— J.R.R. Tolkien
Dear Constance…another Jill Carattini devotional. It gets at who Jesus is, and this is the Jesus that I know (of). The parenthetical “of” is vitally necessary, for none of us has even come close to knowing anything but the most surface of things about Him, which is commentary on the vastness of His wonder and not on the effort of a person. But it also highlights the need for humility. While He “never changes and is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow,” that quote speaks of His character and attributes…
…but not necessarily of His choice of manifestation, from person to person, culture to culture and age to age.
But in all of His epiphanies and manifestations, He will always be found among the lowly and needy and never with the haughty…except perhaps when He comes to recline at table so a grateful prostitute can invade the perfect tea party to show gratitude…or except when He rings the doorbell and stands on the stoop with his whip in His hand and a can of whoop-ass in His heart and more passion for cleansing things than Mr. Clean himself!
Anyway, please enjoy her devotional, and read it with a heart that would look for some explanation of how this Charissa chick got such a crush on Jesus!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Image and Ill-Repute
While many industries confess to struggling during times of economic downturn, the identity management industry, a trade emerging from the realities of the Internet Age, is one gaining business regardless. As one company notes in its mission statement, they began with the realization that “the line dividing people’s ‘online’ lives from their ‘offline’ personal and professional lives was eroding, and quickly.”(1)
While the notion of anonymity or the felt safety of a social network lures users into online disinhibition, reputations are forged in a very public domain. And, as many have discovered, this can come back to haunt them—long after posted pictures are distant memories. In a survey taken in 2006, one in ten hiring managers admitted rejecting candidates because of things they discovered about them on the Internet. With the increasing popularity of social networks, personal video sites, and blogs, today that ratio is now one in two. Hence the need for identity managers—who scour the Internet with an individual’s reputation in mind and scrub websites of image-damaging material—grows almost as quickly as a high-schooler’s Facebook page.
With the boom of the reputation business in mind, I wonder how identity managers might have attempted to deal with the social repute of Jesus. Among officials, politicians, and soldiers, his reputation as a political nightmare and agitator of the people preceded him. Among the religious leaders, his reputation was securely forged by the scandal and outrage of his messianic claims. Beyond these reputations, the most common accusations of his personal depravity had to do with the company he kept, the Sabbath he broke, the food and drink he enjoyed.
In two different gospels, Jesus remarks on his reputation as a glutton. “[T]he Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!’”(2) In fact, if you were to remove the accounts of his meals or conversations with members of society’s worst, or his parables that incorporated these untouchables, there would be very little left of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.
According to etiquette books and accepted social norms, both from the first century and the twenty-first, the reputation of Jesus leaves much to be desired.
Ironically, the reputation of those Jesus left behind does not resemble his reputation much at all. Writing in 1949 with both humor and lament, Dorothy Sayers describes the differences:
“For nineteen and a half centuries, the Christian churches have labored, not without success, to remove this unfortunate impression made by their Lord and Master. They have hustled the Magdalens from the communion table, founded total abstinence societies in the name of him who made the water wine, and added improvements of their own, such as various bans and anathemas upon dancing and theatergoing….[F]eeling that the original commandment ‘thou shalt not work’ was rather half hearted, [they] have added to it a new commandment, ‘thou shalt not play.”(3)
Her observations have a ring of both comedy and tragedy. The impression Christians often give the world is that Christianity comes with an oddly restricted understanding of words such as “virtue,” “morality,” “faithfulness,” and “goodness.” Curiously, this reputation is far more similar to the law-abiding religion of which Jesus had nothing nice to say.
“Woe to you, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 23:23).
When the apostle Paul described the kind of fruit that will flourish in the life of one who follows Jesus, he was not giving the church a checklist or a rigid code like the religious law from which he himself was freed.(4) He was describing the kinds of reputations that emerge precisely when following this friend of tax-collectors and sinners, the drunkard, the Sabbath-breaker: the vicariously human Son of God. This is no mere niceness, an unfeeling, unthinking social obligation to keep the status quo.
Jesus loved the broken, discarded people around him to a social fault. He was patient and kind, joyful and peaceful in ways that made the world completely uncomfortable. He was also radical and intense and unsettling in ways that made the religious leaders and others in power completely uncomfortable. His disruptive qualities of goodness and faithfulness were not badges that made it seem permissible to exclude others for their lack of virtue.
His unfathomable love for God and self-control
did not lead him to condemn the world around him
or to isolate himself in disgust of their immorality;
rather, it moved him to walk to his death
for the sake of all. (formatting changed by CGW)
There are no doubt pockets of the world where the reputation of the church lines up with that of its founder and their presence offers the world a disruptive, countercultural gift. The prophets and identity managers of the church today pray for more of this. Until then, in a world deciphering questions of reputation like “What does it mean to be socially reputable?” or “What is the best way to distinguish oneself?” perhaps we might ask instead, “Who was this human Christ?”
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) From the website ReputationDefender.com/company accessed Jan 15, 2009.
(2) Luke 7:34, Matthew 11:19.
(3) Dorothy Sayers, “Christian morality” in The Whimsical Christian (New York: Macmillan, 1987), 151-152.
(4) “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Well! How about that!!?? We had TGRD yesterday, and it is such a comfort to me to know now that hate has been extinguished, that fear has been banished, and that lust has been exorcised from the human spirit forever!
I am free to walk the streets unafraid of assault, or rape, or being verbally accosted! I am at last no longer subject to the pooh slinging engaged in by people who lie and say they carry out the display of their inner soul at the behest of Precious Jesus and the Father…
…because they have been divested of their bags of pooh, right? No more to throw and thus no more thrown…
Oh…Constance, your silence alarms me. Have I miscalculated? Have I been naive and idealistic in ways unrealistic and ignorant?
Wait. You’re telling me that just having a day of remembrance didn’t change anything?? NOTHING??
Hmmm…well, how about you? If you read here, if you follow what my thoughts have been, has it made a difference in you?
Because if it has, then you can be that difference…today…tomorrow…the next day and the next…
and you can then educate the people that you are connected to, and the ones they are connected to, and it can spread, just like how a spider builds her web and from it gains sustenance and life…she just spins if, from inside her, in simple being what she is.
If you are touched by yesterday, then “be what you is”!
I mean, in virtually each case of each name recited yesterday, there was someone, in the chain of horror that culminated in violent murderous rage and ravaging, savaging who could have interceded…who could have interrupted the demonic energy and dissipated it before it coalesced and took on form and body and stole someone’s life.
And even before the events of the horror tableau…there was a string of tens of thousands of days during which there was the opportunity for just one person to make a difference…to live out love…to intercede and make a way for mercy.
You are each a door. And so am I. Everyday you swing open and let something in, or you swing shut and exclude something. Let’s together help one another to properly open and close. Join me in hope and determination that this year will be a step forward towards a better world for transgender humans…as a function of a better world for all.
And yes, I hear the lament of the ones whose religious fingers stopper their ears, that the world is lost and going to hell and the best we can do is rescue the perishing and outfit them with “Rapture Reverse-Parachutes”…I will simply rest in the words He said “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you!” You of all people are burdened and pregnant with this Kingdom, to bring it forth panting eagerly like a mother a well loved and much desired child conceived and longed for”.
But in lieu of that…just get out of the way. No one likes your constant barrage of negative gloom and doom. It doesn’t help. And we all already know that is what you think. Go sit in the building you go to called “church” and preen.
And the rest of us? We gotta job to do, Constance! Digging, birthing, opening, closing, defending, exalting…
Do Justice. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly.