Wednesday, April 16, 2014

As We Talk About What’s Not Talked About

A friend of mine worked for a Christian company. She was experienced, but because it was a startup company, she agreed to start with a lower salary. The company relied heavily on her expertise, and she worked hard. But when it was time to renegotiate the salary, her supervisor avoided it. The supervisor’s reasoning was that he’s being a good steward of God by helping his Christian boss save money on HR expenses. My friend then left the company, and the company ran out of business not long after. She wasn’t the reason why the company ran out of business, but her experience at the company shows a theme of problematic theological understanding. What her supervisor failed to see was that people, like equipment and properties, are valuable assets of the company.

I have recently read an article that talks about what, according to the gospels, Jesus did and did not talk about during his earthly ministry, and did or did not Jesus really care about the things that He did not talk about. Well, simply put, I believe what Jesus did not explicitly or exhaustively talk about, He summed it up by saying, “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18). As well as “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).

The greatest fear of the modern day evangelical conservative Christians seems to be that the dos and don’ts – those things Jesus did and did not talk about but implied elsewhere – are not addressed enough, so that people may not be able to see clearly enough of where our line is. We may admire Jesus for eating with sinners, we may even displace ourselves with the sinners to stress the grace we received from Jesus, but when thinking about actually having fellowship with modern day sinners…uh, it’s too dangerous and too scary of an idea. Their sins may be contagious, and our lines may be crossed. Let’s just stay where we are, and talk about the dos and don’ts, what Jesus did and did not talk about.

Imagine yourself being in the time of Jesus, living in the Jewish world, in which your daily activities are regulated by the dos and don’ts based on the Law and teachings of the Rabbis. Even as an illiterate lower class citizen, you comply more or less with these religious and cultural norms. But here comes this Jesus guy who claims to be God’s son. While He seems to know Scripture well, but you are troubled because of how much he associates Himself with those nasty sinners. And surely those sinners are contagious, because they are unclean! Clean and unclean is the most fundamental teaching of the Law. Who in their right mind would want to mingle with the unclean? What’s this Jesus guy doing, if He’s not demon-possessed?

As seen in accounts such as “Jesus heals on the Sabbath,” “Lord of the Sabbath” and “Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman”, Jesus’ doing reflects His priority, and His priority reflects how he value human persons. This is not to say that Jesus value human persons more than the Word of God (come on, Jesus is the Word), this is to say that the love for God must consist of the love for people. Too often we talk about the dos and don’ts and the right and wrong as a means to draw the line, to keep sinners away, even to condemn the sinners, and we forgot about how much Jesus our Christ values human persons – the ones created in the image of God. Consequently, we become contributors to others’ pain and misery – the persecuted had become the persecutors – without even realizing it. As we are learning to strike a balance between persisting in the truth and spreading the gospel through unconditional love, please allow me to remind you what ought to be the top priority, the guideline and principle. Once again, the ones we are talking about are real human persons who have feelings just like you and me.

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