I believe Jesus loves this world.
I didn’t used to. I used to believe that Jesus hated the world today … hated what we’ve made of it, and that He would be coming soon to “clean up our messes.” I was taught that God’s ultimate concern was for Him to save as many people as possible from His anger when it finally boiled over. This view of God taught me that a) I was worthless, b) there was nothing beautiful in the world, and c) God was pretty pissed off all the time.
The result of my beliefs was that I became a sort of product produced by religious systems. I wore the right clothes, always said the right things, went to all the right places, bought the right kind of music, listened to the right kind of movies, and hung out with the right kind of people. And the whole time, I was convinced that I was living a righteous life.
But, I was dead.
Dead to see beautiful things. Dead to dream. Dead to experience meaningful interactions with people. Dead to being used by God through my weaknesses. Dead to living a life of faith, rather than a life of adherence. Dead to worship. Dead to relationship. Dead to being alive.
This realization struck me when I came face to face with death. Not physical death, but the sort of death that happens without hope. The sort of death you experience in New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The death that results when everything is taken away, and even what you have left is robbed from you.
It wasn’t so much about the material things, it was the lack of humanity that I witnessed that ultimately changed me. People being taken advantage of. People being forgotten about. People with great needs, little to show, and wounded souls speaking of the goodness of God. It was in these moments, particularly on Beale Street, that I realized this for the first time:
Jesus isn’t okay with what’s happened here.
Not because He’s angry. Not because we’ve failed Him. Not because there was a bunch of vulgar things on Beale Street …. nope. He wasn’t okay with what had happened, because He thinks these people (and that city, those streets) are beautiful. And, they had been robbed of that beauty. God didn’t wipe out a city to teach a nation a lesson. He sent Jesus to show us the truth: that His love will not be confined to our definitions of what it should look like.
Beale Street taught me about Jesus in a new way. It taught me about a Jesus who doesn’t cover His eyes at nasty things and run the other direction, but who recreates nasty things into beautiful things. A Jesus who hasn’t given up on the world, but is creating a new sort of world.
A place where the poor are not pitied, but valued. Where the rich are not greedy, but the most sacrificial. Where the most powerful among us become servants to the least powerful.
A place where the screw ups don’t receive second chances … they receive unlimited chances. A place where prostitutes are not known by their past and drug addicts are not condemned by their addictions … but all are loved, all are a beautiful part of a messed up, screwed up, dysfunctional family becoming new. A place where beauty is breaking the cracks of old. A place where things are as they should be.
A place that is becoming new. Pause.
Are we becoming new? Or is this faith that we adhere to and follow and study about … is it about a destination, or is it about a movement? Is it about where we go, or is it about the going? Faith that teaches us to leave our messes rather than recreate them, sucks.
So, how are you going? If the kingdom is here, if it is now … do you see it? If no, what is keeping you from seeing it? If yes, how are you seeing it?