we hear the expression all the time that we live in a fallen world. sometimes i wonder if we really understand all the implications of this concept… “fallenness” is something that refers to the downward spiral of degradation that our existence endures. the universe is losing energy, stars are burning out or collapsing, the earth’s rotation is slowing, and it seems as though humanity is becoming less and less human with each passing generation. we kill, torture, maim, rape, plunder, rob, exploit, hate, slander, etc., each other more and more. i am always shocked beyond understanding when i hear of the things that people are doing to each other and to top it off, what we are doing to children… these things keep me awake at night.
so in the midst of this darkness, there is the church… Jesus said that we are the light of the world… a city on a hill. jerusalem was able to be seen from many miles away due to its elevation (city on a hill) and to the temple that was in it. it was the herodian Jewish temple that was covered with so much gold that it shined extremely brightly in the sun (light of the world). people would travel from all around the continent to come to the temple and participate in their faith and when they would see it they would begin to sing. as they saw “the House of God” they became filled with hope and awe as they traveled up the hill to the city. they would sing the “songs of ascent” (Psalms 120-134). but Jesus said something really, really scandalous when discussing the temple and its associated rituals. He said, “something greater than the temple is here…” (Matt 12:6). this was a major affront to the thinking of the religious leaders of Judaism, who saw the temple and their practices within this system as the only hope of the world. over and over again, we see Jesus assaulting their motives due to two major factors. the first is that they were not doing these things out of a love for God. they were doing these things out of a love for the institution. it made many of them very wealthy and very powerful. the second is that they were not doing any of these things out of a love for people. they were doing it out of a love of self-righteousness and prominence within the culture. Jesus is enraged on more than one occasion that they have so little care for their fellow man (see Mark 3:5). one of the most impressive things about the Law that they had gotten from Moses was that packed within it over and over again were commands about treating each other with respect and dignity in such a way that surpassed by far the surrounding cultures of the time. now….here are the keepers of that very law, who made other laws in order to make sure that didn’t break any of the originals, missing the entire point. they were missing the call to treat each other as human beings made in the image of a passionately creative God who is also very much creatively passionate.
in what we call the sermon on the mount (Matt 5-7) Jesus speaks of the importance to love one another in ways that are so counter-intuitive that i imagine people’s heads were about to explode…loving enemies…blessing persecutors…treating others as you would “have them treat you,” not treating them as they treat you…thinking about the way we even view each other (lustfully, angrily, or in envy). He absolutely overturned their world and at the same time showed them what being truly human was to look like. Jesus was the most human Man that ever lived, and in His humanity, He showed us that the cycles of repetitive violence for violence, anger for anger, etc., were not going to get us anywhere. they would keep us going down this path of the downward spiral. but if things are going to be different, then we must start implementing the changes in our own hearts and minds so that we can see then world change person by person. don’t get me wrong, none of this is possible without Him first bringing about resurrection in our lives and making us alive again. but once He does, we begin a new humanity… a humanity that truly does have love for those that hate us… a humanity where we find genuine forgiveness and compassion… a humanity that sees others as God sees them: His image bearers.
and why? because “something greater than the temple is here.” because He abolished the separation between us and Him. He did this by His own death and resurrection. by the power of His Spirit He enlivens us to live…truly live… as human beings.
many of our churches and organizations have become in many ways just like the 1st century Jewish religious leaders…we seem so often to be concerned with that which is not that important. meanwhile, the true worship of God, expressed by our Loving Him through loving and serving others in His Name, is a missing ingredient. many of our churches have beautiful buildings (like a temple of gold…) and they stand out in a community (like on a hill…) but many times they are nothing more than the remnants of an institution long bereft of the love that founded it as a fellowship (not an institution). how can we expect the world around us to change at all when we are not living out the new humanity within the fellowship of our very own churches? how can we expect for those on the outside to believe that which our actions indicate that we don’t even believe?
we must be different…radically different. when hated, we must love. when contested, we must not fight, but simply stand on the truth of the Gospel. when attacked, we must not defend. we must act as He did when these things happened to Him and if we don’t then how will things ever be any different? if we don’t how will we ever exhibit the humanity He is making us to be? our language must be that of love and compassion instead of debate and argument. our causes must be those that show the same passion for humanity that He has as opposed to desire for status, land, sway, and comfort. let the institution be destroyed in order to make way for the new humanity that He is ushering in…let us turn our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks. let us love Him, and in turn love one another…for that is what being human is all about.