I’ve basically finished McLaren’s The Secret Message of Jesus, I just have the apendices left and I rarely ever read those so I’m as good as done.
It was a thought provoking book, and I gotta say, not as controversial as I thought it would be. McLaren definetly paints a picture of Jesus that is compassionate, revolutionary, and on a mission. Which is where we should all be as his followers.
The last few chapters where about the Kingdom of God, and McLaren really tried to enforce the idea that the Kingdom of God is not just pie in the sky go to heaven when I die. Jesus told us that the Kingdom is at hand. We need to be working on building the kingdom of God here and now. Someday Jesus will usher in the completion of his kingdom, but that is not our concern, what are we doing today to make Heaven on Earth.
I was challenged at Elevate 06 this past year by something that Brandon Cameron said many times, Jesus lowered the standard of acceptance but raised the level of Commitment. And McLaren picks up on that to, when he was talking about Exlusivism and Inclusivism. This is definitely a hot issue today with the church falling on both sides, some excluding all “sinners”, others welcome everyone no matter what. These churches don’t talk about sin and personal responsibility because that would come across judgemental.
McLaren leads us another way that I found encouraging and challenging, he titled it “purposeful inclusion.” McLaren talks about how church that are divided over sin and such they fall apart, because they welcome people who don’t want to help sinners get out of sin, or they welcome sinners who don’t want to acknowledge their faults. And these churches begin to crumble.
Here are some quotes from this discussion:
The kingdom’s purpose is to gather, to include, to welcome everyone who is willing (children, prostitutes, tax collectors)into reconcilliation wiht God and one another — but if the kingdom included people who rejected this purpose, the kingdom “divided against itself,” would be ruined.
Citizens of the kingdom must indeed want to learn a new way of life, and if they don’t count and pay the full cost, they will remain outside.
So yeah welcome anyone to come into church, and let them know, the only way to come into the kingdom is to seek reconcilliation with God and each other, so you have to deal with sin, there is no way around it. This was quite interesting, and actually surprising to come from McLaren.
But at the same time the kingdom of God is open to religious people who may actually miss what Jesus is doing because they are too busy sticking to their rules. Religious leaders and Prostitues alike both need to be willing to commit to a new way of life, of reconciliation, of healing, of grace. Because really we are all jacked up people and Jesus is came to get us all into the revolution.
I also like the way McLaren talked about the Kingdom, we really have no context for kingdom thinking today because we don’t live under kings. But for Jesus to say things like the kingdom of God is at hand, he wasn’t just saying the nice little platitude that it has become today, he was inciting a revolution, and while it was intended to be a revolution of peace it was still a revolution. Jesus was basically saying, yeah Rome may be in charge today, but we serve a higher power than Rome. We may be under the heels of oppressors now, but someday our oppressors will receive justice. Jesus wasn’t a hippy who had an incredible medicare and food program, he was a revolutionary. And his followers literally risked everything to be associated with him. They were setting themselves up to be seen as traitors to Rome.
What can we say today that would encite that kind of passion about the Kingdom of God? What image can we cast about what the kingdom is really like? What can we say to give it the weight that it really deserves? Jesus calls us to be revolutionaries, not just pew warmers, not just republicans or democrats, not just pastors and lay people, not just doctors or bus drives, revolutionaries.