Becoming Like Little Children

Though Jesus did not, at first, impress us as the Messiah (by refusing to live up to our expectations of what a messiah is), eventually, some got the point and worshiped him. They adored him, not necessarily as the means to a better world, not as an effective catalyst for social change, but rather as the way God really is, all the way down. He is reality, and in him, we see that reality is peace. True, it is a peace “that passes all understanding.” It is not peace that one achieves by studying the course of world history or by meditating upon the human condition. His peace comes as a gift from the one who is known, paradoxically, as the Prince of Peace, the clue to what’s really going on in the world, the revelation of who God really is.

So Jesus hangs upon a bloody cross, humiliated before the whole world. The mob taunts, “If you are really tight with God, command your legions of angels to take charge, to come down and defeat your enemies and deliver you.”

But Jesus just hanged there. He breathed his last, and he died. This is the way God’s kingdom comes? This is the way God wins victory? A stupendous claim, not made before or since by any religion: God not only takes the side of the innocent victim of violence and injustice but becomes one of them.

Jesus advocated no systematic program of human reform, never recommended any collective social adjustments, no matter how badly needed or enlightened. Jesus was not big on ethical codes, had no ideology, did no interesting work in political science or social ethics, and never put forth a plan of action, other than the (seemingly) wildly impractical notions that the first will be last, that we must turn the other cheek to those who strike us, and that we should become like little children.

From The Best of Will Willimon (Abingdon, 2012.  Check out Will’s novel, Incorporation, a wild ride through the contemporary church – satire and slapstick with serious theological intent.  Available from Cascade Press https://wipfandstock.com/store/incorporation.

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