The Gospel wants to mess with our worldview.
But if we come to Scripture with a left-leaning worldview we may see things that confirm our perspective and so we’ll say, “Jesus was a Liberal.” And, by the same token, if we come to Scripture with a right-leaning worldview, we may see things that confirm our perspective and say, “Jesus was a Conservative.” But liberal and conservative values are not, in themselves, the Gospel.
I can’t speak for folks who lean right—they need to distinguish between a Conservative Agenda and the Gospel in their own ways (I’m encouraged, for example, to watch how Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention is leading this conversation). Speaking, as I do, from a perspective that leans left, let me share how the Gospel is showing itself to be so much bigger than a Liberal Agenda. The Gospel is so much bigger than a Liberal Agenda. Click To Tweet
The Beatitudes Agenda
The Beatitudes are a classic example of this. As we read them, it’s easy to create in our minds an image of the person who is the opposite of the Blessed—they are satisfied, overpowering, selfish, unkind, seeking their own benefit. And the world loves them for it. We have plenty of examples in politics, business, entertainment, even the church. They’re the heroes of the world.
But, as we know, Jesus paints a picture where the heroes, instead, are the meek and mourning, the merciful and pure, those who hunger for righteousness and peace. As a result, they’re often persecuted and reviled.
I’ve heard this preached many times in a way that takes the world’s hierarchy and simply flips it. The marginalized were the outsiders and now they’re the heroes. In some way that’s encouraging. But it still doesn’t sound like good news to me in two ways:
If you’re marginalized, your freedom is dependent on the actions of others and until every person you encounter treats you equitably, you will always be oppressed.
If you’re in a place of privilege, you will always be two steps away from blessed. You feel you have to give away all your possessions and comfort before you can ever feel connected to God. If you’re in a place of privilege, you will always feel two steps away from blessed. Click To Tweet
As a white woman, I find myself in both a marginalized and privileged place.
And neither feels like freedom. Or Good News.
Good News for the Privileged and the Marginalized
But there’s a better way.
Some of these Beatitudes describe circumstances beyond our control. But many of them are a chosen posture—hungering for righteousness, mercy, peace-making, purity of heart. We each—regardless of our circumstances—have a choice.
Those who are marginalized can find freedom now, before they’re ever released from oppression, when they find their hope in God. Those who are privileged can choose now to long for the things of God and right now—before they ever give up their privilege—they can be close to God.
But in the world’s eyes there are still ways this can be warped.
- For the marginalized it can sound like the opiate of the masses: “I shouldn’t long or work for freedom for myself or others because I have freedom in Jesus.”
- For the privileged it can sound like an easy out: “I don’t have to set aside my comfort to be good with God.”
Here’s where the salt and light passage—which immediately follows the Beatitudes—promises something hopeful.
Not only do we all have instant access, instant blessedness if we choose the right posture to God, whatever we learn in that closeness to God brings something radical to the world around us.
Here is Jesus invitation to us:
“You’ll come to be what I created, a living example of the world as it should be.
When you’re a child of the kingdom, you will begin to be something that will mess with everything the world has ever known.
Not only will you see yourself in new ways, you’ll open the eyes of others.
You’ll be a poor person who is generous, a wealthy person who doesn’t care about money. You’ll be a sick person who has joy, a healthy person who is willing to step into danger.
You’ll be an outcast person who is not lonely, a popular person who has no regard for approval.
You’ll be a weak person who is strong, a strong person who chooses weakness.
Your presence will give others a foretaste of God, a vision of God.”
Good News of the Kingdom
So here’s where this feels like Good News to me:
The marginalized can say: “Regardless of how the world views me, mine is the kingdom. If I am a child of God, I have nothing to fear from how others see me. If a human being who is still caught outside of the Beatitudes’ way of seeing treats me in a way that isn’t Blessed, I see differently. And not only do I no longer see myself as they see me, I no longer see them as they see themselves. I can say, ‘Hey, you may treat me that way but don’t you know I’m a child of God? Oh, and by the way, so are you!’” If I am a child of God, I have nothing to fear from how others see me. Click To Tweet
This may not mean that oppression will ever change. In fact, it may bring more oppression upon us. And yet, the greatest hope I’ve seen in upending oppression has often come when the oppressed work for outer freedom from a place of inner freedom.
The privileged can say, “I have always worried I had too much, wondered how much I had to give away or suffer for the sake of suffering in order to be in God’s blessing. If I choose the posture of the beatitudes, I can have his blessing now—the blessing of his Kingdom and his presence. From that relationship I will certainly be challenged to sacrifice and suffer. But the good news is this: I don’t have to sacrifice and suffer as a work to earn the Kingdom. That was Jesus’ work. I can have relationship now and make myself obedient to every call to sacrifice that comes my way as I walk with him.”
When we let ourselves be transformed by the way of Jesus, our old ways of seeing suddenly seem two-dimensional. When we are willing to receive the freedom he offers—now, regardless of our external circumstances—it becomes truly good news to us. And when we embrace that good news, we can be good news to others. We can describe a bigger, better story.
It’s no longer a story of power hierarchies. No longer the powerful oppressing the powerless, nor the powerless finding a strange kind of superiority in their oppressed state. Instead, we discover a story of a God who knows how to use every experience of brokenness, lowering, submission to reveal himself.
This new story reveals him because he is a God who is broken and submitted for those he loves. And when we follow him to those places, whatever we learn there we bring back to this world of hierarchies. To that world which understands only “oppressor or oppressed,” we reveal a new possibility: “free and blessed.” We become what that bland world craves—salt. We become what that dark world can only imagine—light. And once they taste and see the goodness of this God, they will never be the same again.
Not only does that sound like good news to me.
It sounds like something worth sharing. We become what that dark world can only imagine—light. Click To Tweet