The Gentle Way of Jesus

As we seek to explore the way of Jesus (His way of humility that seems upside-down in our culture of power and pride) we will inevitably have to consider Jesus’ constant invitation into loving one another as a testimony of the Father’s love. Dallas Friesen from our sister denomination CBOQ shares these words about how we as Baptists in Canada can choose the humble way of Jesus as we wrestle together through conflict and diverse perspectives. Thanks, Dallas for your words (originally posted on baptist.ca).


A Gentle Answer

By Dallas Friesen

“Christ, present in the lives of congregational members, leads them corporately to discover and obey his mind and will. Such ‘congregational government’ calls for and expresses the equality and responsibility of believers under the Lordship of Christ.” 

“Why Baptist?”, p. 13 

It has been said that if there are 80 Baptists in one room, there will be 85 opinions. We are infamous for disagreeing with one another on everything from crucial theological points to whether pews should have cushions. We can do this because we have autonomy, meaning that each church is free to make its own decisions on many subjects. While we are all people of Scripture and of conscience, it doesn’t mean we’re all the same. Though we choose to gather around the same table and share the same distinctives, we are free to express the unique flavours of our respective congregations. Sometimes it is like a glorious feast. At other times, a culinary disaster.

Before we berate ourselves too harshly, let’s remember this: even those closest to Jesus had conflict. Ten of his disciples were fairly annoyed when James and John wanted to secure their right to sit and Jesus’ right hand. (Matt. 20:20-24) Paul had strong words for Peter over his choice in dinner guests, (Gal. 2:11-14) and parted ways with Barnabas for a time over a disagreement regarding Mark’s fitness for service. (Acts 15:36-41) And who can forget poor Euodia and Syntyche, forever remembered in Scripture as the women who couldn’t get along? (Phil. 4:2-3) And that’s just the beginning!

Even when we are in the presence of Christ, we, his broken followers, will disagree. Given that, how do we do it well?

Peter Scazzero, in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, looks at how to deal with conflict—not by avoiding it as “false peacemakers,” but by responding as Jesus would respond. “Jesus’ profound, contemplative prayer life with his Father resulted in a contemplative presence with people… This ability to really listen and pay attention to people was at the very heart of his mission. It could not help but move him to compassion. In the same way, out of our contemplative time with God, we, too, are invited to be prayerfully present to people, revealing their beauty to themselves.” (p. 180)

When we are faced with conflict, it is easy to seize passionately on to the idea and forget the person from whom it comes. It is tempting to steamroll over others, hear only the points we want to hear and enjoy the temporary delights of the offended. But righteous indignation isn’t one of the fruits of the Spirit. Gentleness is. We need not compromise on what we believe to be true, but our love for Christ and our brothers and sisters in his kingdom compels us to share our ideas and opinions… gently. Christians are meant to be builders—those upon whom Christ can build his church—not bulldozers.

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Tools, like words, can be used to build or to bulldoze.

When I was in grade 5, attending a Christian school, we were required to memorize Proverbs 15:1—“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” I cannot count the number of times in my life that I have returned to that piece of deep wisdom. As you go about your day, I hope you will join with me in this prayer from Scazzero’s book:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. I am aware, Lord, of how often I treat people as Its, as objects, instead of looking at them with the eyes and heart of Christ. Lord, I have unhealthy ways of relating that are deeply imbedded in me. Please change me. Make me a vessel to spread mature, steady, reliable love so that people with whom I come in contact sense your tenderness and kindness. Deliver me from false peacemaking that is driven by fear. Lord Jesus, help me love well like you. Grow me, I pray, into an emotionally mature adult through the Holy Spirit’s power. In Jesus’ name, amen.” (EHS, p. 194) 

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

1 Peter 3:15-16

 

Book Review: Jesus the Fool

Dan Bennett reviews Michael Frost, Jesus the Fool (Baker Books, 2010).

In Jesus The Fool: The Mission of the Unconventional Christ, Mike Frost explores ideas and examples of true followers of Jesus who, by the very nature of the call of Jesus, express themselves in seemingly foolish ways to the culture.

Frost seeks to show the “vital, lively, mischievous, dynamic, energetic way in which Jesus lived life and took a small band of men and women on a journey they would never forget.” In his chapter, “Jesus The Jester,” Frost suggests that not only did Jesus play the misguided fool in the face of prestige and influence through His humility, He also played the fool in order to enhance His ministry.

Frost explores various images of Jesus that seem contradictory to current evangelicalism’s picture of the put-together, westernized Messiah.Jesus amassed no earthly wealth, had no sons to carry on His name, was not widely traveled and was not well educated.

mike-frost

The Apostle Paul notes the foolishness of Christ in 1 Corinthians 1 and 3, attesting to the call for us to become fools as Christ was, for His sake. Frost works through how, in humility, Jesus reframes our perspective on everything from forgiveness and our relationship with God to our view of others and our attitude to the poor.

An example of Frost’s exploration of biblical parables is especially poignant. In the parable Jesus tells of the merciful manager—where the manager acts as a go-between for the landlord and his tenants—Frost shows how the manager shrewdly halves the bills owing of the tenants and gives the impression that he, the manager, had a hand in convincing the landlord of the reduction. “Imagine the response from the community! An impromptu celebration would have resulted…glasses would have been raised in toasts to their noble landlord” (p163).Frost explains that the landlord would have had to either consider firing the manager, which would lead to a bad relationship with the tenants, or, he could keep silent and let the manager bask in his glory as part of the landlord’s generous plan to bless them the tenants.

The parable is not what was expected to come out of Jesus’ mouth—it was foolishness—and yet it pointed to the way that the manager, in a tight situation, where he was at the end of his human capacities, “recognized his own impotence and gambled on the landlord’s grace” (p165). Which, of course, is what the kingdom of God is like. “Dishonest, disreputable people who have no way of earning salvation” who recognize their hopelessness can rely on the grace and mercy of God. This is foolishness to the world.

As my pastoral role includes equipping our church in the area of stewardship, I particularly appreciated the passage on page 174-170 on profaning money by making the evil power of filthy lucre impotent through the process that Jaques Ullul calls, “gracing.” In disempowering money through giving it away to the marginalized and poor, whom St.Francis of Assisi called “sacramental,” we call attention to the author of grace and mercy whom we truly worship.

Utter foolishness and yet, a deep challenge to consider the direction we choose to live.

Dan Bennett,
Southside Community Church