Every day, I surprise someone I don’t know on Facebook.
I do it when I respond in a way they didn’t expect from a “Christian,” much less a pastor.
I hasten to correct any misunderstandings; I am not shocking them by being rude or naughty (at least, I don’t think so!). No, I am shocking them because they expect me to make excuses for hating Muslims, fearing Sharia, or condemning gays. They expect me to be angry and defensive against cultural change, and mostly involved in trying to shut other people up.
They think that what Christianity is really about, is shoring up a culture that is slipping away, where men were men and women were at home, where everyone knew their place and stayed in it if they knew what was good for them, and that of course meant that black people stayed on their side of town, Spanish-speaking people lived somewhere else and NOBODY’S kid was gay, much less “transgender.”
They think that is what my job is, to teach people to passionately defend that world, and so they are prepared to sneer at me, at my church, at dumb Christians who believe fairy tales, in general.
So I surprise them, by agreeing with them on a lot of things. I surprise them by telling them that Jesus agreed with them on a lot of things. I surprise them by sharing their disgust with that other picture of Christianity.
I’d like to think that makes a difference, but of course it is more fun for them to disparage people they don’t know than it is to have to consider my challenge to their suppositions. I understand that.
And of course there are enough Facebook posts and cringeworthy interviews to underscore that there ARE Christians who think that above paragraph is the most essential thing for them to care about right now.
And, after all, I can always argue that Jesus told us we would be misunderstood and rejected.
But let’s be misunderstood and rejected for actually loving and caring for our neighbors, no matter who they are. Let’s be prepared to care for the one in need of mercy on our way, no matter who they are. Let’s be misunderstood for being too compassionate, being too willing to listen to other people, being foolish in the way we are generous.
Let’s be regarded as being dangerous because we do NOT uphold the status quo, just as Jesus wouldn’t. Let’s let the empire start to worry about us, because we just will not fall into line. The minute our hearts start to close up toward someone, let us pray for an emergency action of the Spirit, that we would be good listeners. (We don’t have to agree to listen).
And let’s surprise everyone by our willingness to love, even if they mock us for it. Even if they threaten us for it. I’m pretty sure that’s what Jesus had in mind.