Demonstrating Christ

Dec 4, 2014 by

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“Be patient,” they say.

“Be peaceful,” they say.

“Just wait,” they say, “for this is how Christ behaved . . . MLK behaved . . . the truly godly behave.”

But I serve a demonstrating Christ.

I serve a Christ who walked into the temple, looked around and felt anger. Who fashioned a whip for the purpose of driving folks out. Suddenly tables crash to the floor. Money clangs as it scatters across the floor. Feet pounding, tripping, running, racing to get out of there. Benches over turn. A whip slices through the air. A voice roars, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. But you have made it a den of robbers.”

I serve a demonstrating Christ — though we often skip this story. This story wedged in all four gospels, the final provocation for killing the man called Jesus. But we skip it because it serves us no more. We have no need for this Jesus because we don’t make animal sacrifices anymore. We are never in danger of bringing in too many bleating animals, of exploiting too much in a cash exchange, of walking through our church carrying cows, goats or doves. So we explain this passage not as a story unto itself but only in service for why Christ died.

But what if this moment is about more. More than money. More than animals. More than noise. What if this is about a demonstrating Christ who was consumed by love for the temple, the gathering place where God met man. What if this is a story about the need for the nations to come. The need for the space to be cleared so that nothing stood in the way for the scattered to arrive. We commonly refer to this story as “Jesus cleansing the temple” and I would like to submit to you today that the Church still needs cleansing.

Because America has erected a far more dubious system for keeping people out.

Out of our schools.

Out of our neighborhoods.

Out of our churches.

Out of our leadership.

Out of our communities.

Out of our conscience.

We indeed have a sacrificial system, extorted for gain. Its called racism and black bodies are the ones dying. Indeed America has perfected the systemic art of thievery and segregation.

For what feels like forever we have watched the taking of black lives again and again and again. Unarmed, their black bodies have been cause enough to extract a final breath. Black bodies have only been welcome here so long as they are willing to bend to the white will. Black bodies have been welcome here so long as they are willing to hand over all that they are, in pleasure to the white whim. Black bodies have been welcome here so long as they keep in line, stay in their place, remain locked out or locked up.

Any violation of the white will is cause for judgement, correction, threat, death. Head over to social media and it is overrun with photos of the white will violating white law and yet over and over again this does not result in death. And while the black community mourns, the segregation is on display. The racist thought patterns are on display. Displeasure with how we mourn, how we grieve, how we scream, how we cry is met with icy cold disdain. And touting civility as the highest form of godliness, we are asked to be patient, peaceful, wait.

But I serve a demonstrating Christ. Surely Christ could have stood on the steps of the temple, at the entrance and waved his arm toward the commotion. Surely he could have declared to anyone who would stop long enough to listen, “Do you see what is happening in there?” “Don’t you think someone should stop this?” Surely he could have taken his 12 from stall to stall and quietly pointed out each atrocity before his eyes. Calmly explaining his rationale to each seller, he could have ministered to each one persuading them to do what is right. Surely he could have been patient and kind, asking each one to please leave the temple. Surely he could have used humor to catch people off guard. Or perhaps he could have waited — waited until the day was done, until Passover was done, until the Temple was done. Surely he could have . . . could have done anything other than demonstrate.

But I serve a Christ who disrupts.

And we are called to demonstrate him, right?

So how long before you unseat privilege and power? How long before you turn over the tables of injustice? How long before you whip your congregation into shape, beat out racist ideology and roar your displeasure? How long before you scatter your donors and donations? How long before you throw your gains to the floor? How long before you are consumed by more than four walls. How long before you are consumed by love for every body. How long before the bodies which contain the Spirit of the Lord matter more than property, wealth and power? How long? How long before you disrupt anti-black thought patterns? How long before you cast out problematic language? How long before you call out racist actions?

When will you take a stand?

When will you be fed up?

You know, like Christ.

Austin Channing Brown works speaking, training, facilitating dialogue or planning strategies in reconciliation. She is the multicultural ministry specialist at Willow Creek Community Church’s Chicago Campus. This first appeared on her blog, austinchanning.com.


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