Who Would You Rather Follow?
I don’t know about you, but it would certainly be a whole lot more exciting to follow Che Guevara into battle for the rights of the poor, than to follow Fred Rogers into the land of Make Believe to chat with Daniel Lion. And there has been a certain corrective underway in our understanding of Jesus, moving his visage more toward the picture of Che and away from the picture of Mr. Rogers. I, myself have voiced that Jesus was more like the revolutionary leader than the docile children’s program host. But I am re-thinking my perspective.
There is certainly something about following Jesus which gets a person in trouble. Jesus was executed by religious and State authorities because he was a threat to those in power. His kingdom operates on principles which place the poor and marginalized in seats of honor. The powerful (religiously powerful, politically powerful or financially powerful) are often on the outside of this “good news to the poor” kingdom. Anyone attempting to bring Jesus' kingdom will get into the same kind of trouble Jesus did from the power-holders who get displaced by the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus promised it would be so. “Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you.” John 15:20 (NLT). The kingdom brought by Jesus will be inherited by the meek, and the power transfer from the strong to the meek will not take place without resistance.
Although Che was rightly disturbed at the treatment of the poor, and dreamed of a world where the marginalized were given voice, he was anything but meek. He was notorious for his disciplinarian tactics, shooting defectors for abandoning his ideals. He was pleased to incite violent revolution to obtain his goals. Mr. Rogers, on the other hand, is most at home sitting on the floor playing Chutes and Ladders with a six year old. And I am pretty sure this is more descriptive of Jesus than shooting defectors. In fact, when his disciples were warring about who would be greatest, he brought a little boy or girl and had the child stand among them. "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me." Matthew 18:3-5 (NRSV).
The kind of revolution Jesus is inciting will more likely call me to drop my career in order to care for an invalid than to “take out” a banker, CEO or political leader. Following Jesus, I mean really following him no matter what, is going to “take out” my ego before it will turn me into a hit man.
It is precisely in this downward journey of coming alongside the dispossessed that can be so threatening to those who dispossessed the outcast and the disregarded people of our world. But we don’t forsake upward mobility, fame, money, etc. to be threatening, we do it because Jesus said to even gain entrance into his kingdom we’ve got to become like children. While I chafe at Mr. Rodger’s “here-comes-Trolley” harmlessness and am drawn to the cry “CHARGE!” issued by revolutionaries, the truth is that if the meek are to inherit the earth we’re more likely to be near the center of kingdom power by getting down on the floor with Mr. Rogers than loading our weapons with Che.