I'm reading Brian McLaren's The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth That Could Change Everything.
McLaren begins with these troubling, hopeful questions: "What if Jesus of Nazareth was right -- more right, and right in different ways, than we have ever realized? What if Jesus had a message that truly could change the world, but we're prone to miss the point of it? What if we have developed a religion that makes reverent and honoring statements about Jesus but doesn't teach what Jesus taught in the manner he taught it? What if the religion generally associated with Jesus neither expects nor trains its adherents to actually live in the way of Jesus?"
Examining deeply Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5-7, which he calls "Jesus' kingdom manifesto," McLaren contends that the kingdom of God is "a revolutionary, countercultural movement -- proclaiming a ceaseless rebellion against the tryrannical trinity of money, sex, and power."
Here's how he summarizes Jesus' manifesto:
- Be poor in spirit, mourn, be meek, hunger and thirst for true righteousness, be merciful, be pure in heart, be a peacemaker, be willing to joyfully suffer persecution and insult for doing what is right.
- Be salt and light in the world -- by doing good works.
- Do not hate or indulge in anger, but instead seek to reconcile.
- Do not lust or be sexually unfaithful in your heart.
- Do not presume to make vows, but have simple speech, where yes means yes and no, no.
- Do not get revenge, but find creative and nonviolent ways to overcome evil done to you.
- Love your enemies, as God does, and be generous to everyone, as God is.
- Give to the poor, pray, and fast secretly.
- Don't let greed cloud your outlook, but store up treasure in heaven through generosity.
- Don't worry about your own daily needs, but instead trust yourself to God's care, and seek God's kingdom first and foremost.
- Don't judge others, but instead first work on your own blindness.
- Go to God with all your needs, knowing that God is a caring Father.
- Do to others as you would have them do to you.
- Don't be misled by religious talk; what counts is actually living by Jesus' teaching.
Okay, so we've got all that covered in our everyday lives, right?!
Or, maybe not so much. McLaren wonders: "What would happen in our world if increasing numbers of us were to practice living in this way? What would happen in our individual lives if we didn't just hear Jesus' words, if we didn't simply say, 'Lord, Lord!' but rather heard his words and acted on them? And what future might we predict for ourselves, our nation, and our planet if we reject Jesus' ethical manifesto in practice (even if we pay lip service to it in theory.)?"
What do you think?