Jesus was killed.
My tradition has always looked at his execution from an abstract, theological point of view. We talk about God getting stuck in a sort of cosmic loop-hole where his previous promise to kill sinners works against his desire to let them live, so he works out a deal with his son in which killing his son makes it so he can let sinners who understand this theological concept off the hook.
But I find myself looking at it from a different point of view this year.
Jesus was a different sort of fellow. He refused to accept the conventions of who was ‘us’ and who was ‘them’. He would befriend hookers and foreigners and heretics. He undermined the religious and civil establishment by commanding people to call no one father or teacher or master. He starting knocking the legs out under the power of the empire by telling people to love their enemies and to never repay evil for evil. He upset the commercial establishment by clearing the businessmen from the temple and by telling folks to share everything they had until there were no poor people left. He told people that the Utopian Kingdom of God was within their grasp.
They had to kill him, of course.
Not only that, they had to break his message.
So now, instead of a Jesus who was willing to die before kill, we have a Jesus who blesses our soldiers and weapons manufacturers while condemning bartenders. It’s an easy thing to do. Watch.
First, we take the premise from Romans 13 that the government is established by God. Then we remember that, while Jesus made it abundantly clear that our only attitude and actions toward our enemies should be love and kindness, God is allowed killing anyone he wants. So when the government tells us to kill, it’s okay! So long as you do it without hating the people in ‘your heart’, as Luther says, “Soldiers, as Christians, should indeed love those enemies – not hate them, hold malice against them, or mistreat captives or civilians – but they have an authorization to do what soldiers have to do.”
And all the other things that led Jesus to the cross, we steer away from. Instead of eating with hookers and heretics, we rail against them. Instead of turning over the tables of unjust businessmen who use religion as a means of profit and oppress their workers, we support Walmart and Wall Street while condemning the people trying to change the system. Instead of forgiveness, we call for punishment. Instead of rehabilitation, we call for death. Instead of freedom, we set certain men as higher than ourselves, call them ‘government’ and put on fancy clothes and ribbons while we go off killing their enemies.
That sort of Jesus never would have gone to a cross. He would have started a profitable career in politics.
But the real love of Jesus threatens everything. It threatens our wealth and safety. It’s risky. It’s full of uncertainties. It’ll kill half the people who sign up for it. But it’s also the only way to life. Jesus proved it.