I’m ready to admit that the biggest drawback to being a Christian is this: it just makes you weird.
Following the teachings of Jesus is just exhausting. It really is. First of all, it’s exhausting just to try to get my brain to the point where I’m far enough outside of my postmodern, materialistic, Protestant, 2016 mind that I can even understand where he’s starting from. Our lenses are so tinted by our place in history and our place in the world, it’s much easier to read the words of Jesus and transfer the tidbits that we like to what we’re already doing. That’s such a bad idea. Most of my fundamental mistakes with the Bible have happened because I did this.
It’s exhausting because once you DO understand Jesus’ historic and cultural point of view, you’re in even worse shape. He never sides with the powerful, he tells people to throw away what’s most important to them, he doesn’t even allow us to stay angry at someone who has clearly done us wrong. Seriously, who signs up for this? Does anyone in their right mind love people ALL the time?
Then there’s the people he picked to run around with. Laying aside the fact that they were basically hobos and tramps, he picked guys who couldn’t even READ. These guys were so illiterate you could see it just by looking at them. Remember this?
13 The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.
– Acts 4
Can you imagine? Caiaphas, one of the authors of the crucifixion, was right there watching. He had to be frustrated. This rogue rabbi he finally got rid of, the guy who dared insult the respected minds of the day, had a bunch of knucklehead posers that were deluding themselves into thinking they still had something to say. It would have been easy to write them off, except lots of people were listening. The crowd that Caiaphas and his cronies convinced that Jesus was a criminal, they were changing their minds now.
What do you do? You tell these guys to shut up, because they’ve seen what happened to their leader, they will get the hint.
16 “What should we do with these men?” they asked each other. “We can’t deny that they have performed a miraculous sign, and everybody in Jerusalem knows about it. 17 But to keep them from spreading their propaganda any further, we must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.” 18 So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.
19 But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? 20 We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.
– Acts 4
Yeah, they didn’t get the hint. So now, on the list of things that make us weirdos, we have to add, “doesn’t understand danger” and “no regard for personal safety.” Because these guys did it once, they could certainly do it again. They did do it again.
It’s hard for me to understand a focus that points you directly on a course of self-destruction as that. It would get you branded as… you know… a weirdo.
That’s the part I think we’re uncomfortable with. Who wants to be unpopular? Thought of as a nut? Constantly referred to only by our association with Jesus? Maybe that’s why there so, so much instruction from Paul about how to live together harmoniously. It wasn’t just that getting along was important, but it was also that having a community to be a part of was vital when you found yourself an outcast of the regular ones.
It’s worth noting what happened before the scriptures above: the disciples had just healed a lame man. This guy:
3 Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service. 2 As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money.
4 Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. 6 But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”
Then the disciples healed him and then said this:
16 “Through faith in the name of Jesus, this man was healed—and you know how crippled he was before. Faith in Jesus’ name has healed him before your very eyes.
Wait, hold on. Healed in the name of Jesus? He didn’t even SAY the name of Jesus! How on earth does that work? Did he understand who Jesus was? Had he ever even heard of Jesus? Did he pray a sinners prayer and ask Jesus into his heart? (Side note: neither a “sinner’s prayer” nor “asking Jesus into your heart” ever appears in the Bible. In any place, ever. Unless you count that all the people who prayed, other than Jesus, were sinners. But I digress.)
There’s almost too much weirdness to keep up with. Definitely too much for one post. Suffice it to say this, and I can’t offer much resolution otherwise: Following Jesus makes you weird, and accepting that fact might help us follow him a little more closely.