An avalanche of news tumbling across the airwaves day after day. Pressing in, paralyzing with volume and content, invariably bad news, harsh attitudes, complex issues, blame, accusation, overwhelming. Enough to bury the head deeper in some distraction to silence the noise. There’s too much at once to cope with. It’s always been this way. The human condition, conflict, injustice, compromise, indifference, anger, cruelty – and also beauty, song, dance, caring, patience, unconditional love, sacrifice, hope rising, exquisite sensitivity and tenderness.
Jesus lived his life in the center of a similar avalanche of human chaos without becoming numb, cynical, disillusioned, or abandoning hope. Light, truth, faith, joy, love, and a solid identity were some ingredients that sustained him fully alive, brave, and engaged. Because he carried the world on his shoulders we don’t have to. Because of his life, death, and resurrection there is always hope. Because of the gift of the Spirit released in the wake of his rising there is always power to believe and live for what we don’t yet see, fully comprehend, or experience – yet. It’s one hell of a mystery; a paradox beyond comprehension, the way, the truth and the life.
Numb rolls over – “so what”. Cynical sneers – ‘you wish”. Anger snaps – “F**** you”. Helpless – sighs.
Faith rises – “look at that!”
When Christianity is merely a religious option, a set of rules and dogmas, and little more than pie in the sky when it comes to real life in a real world…. it has no power, no hope, and little to rejoice over. It is overwhelmed with ‘the ways of the world’ and is beaten down by the multitude of competing idols, worldviews, and power hungry regional and individual agendas – here today, gone tomorrow.
For Jesus’ entire human existence in and around the region of Jerusalem and Nazareth chaos and cruelty hemmed in from every angle. If it wasn’t the Romans iron fist it was the tax collectors grubby hand, the wagging finger of religion, or the fickle turning of public opinion. Authority demanded compliance, obedience, payment, and meek submission to what everyone knew to be unjust, unfair, corrupt, and plainly downright wrong.
Like water seeping through the cracks and sand, Jesus infiltrated all of that very real negative with his presence and love anyway. Truth cannot be beaten out of existence, neither can love or faith be legislated against. The God in Jesus never cowers before the tragic spectacle of human rebellion relentlessly gnawing at its own, numb to him – yet without a solution to last even one lifetime.
Jesus shows us how to stay alive amidst difficult and sometimes challenging circumstances, situations, people, and politics. He could have spent his time ranting against all the oppressive systems and evils of his day. He certainly wasn’t deaf or blind to his surroundings. Instead he chose to focus on people. Ordinary men, women, and children whom he touched, healed, dined with, befriended, and shared his life with. Nothing that seemed to rock the world or make much difference in the bigger scheme of things. But what was set in motion in that remote region of the world was going to spread to every corner of the globe and never let up through generations to come. It has transformed humanity and given courage to those living in fear, hope to the helpless, and defiant life and love to those who refuse to accept that negative, passive, compliance within the status quo is what they were born to embrace.
The life of Jesus emulated by his disciples is costly as well as exhilarating. Costly, because to empathize and to feel – particularly the reality of another is not always easy or comfortable. And yet it is the key to kindness unlocking compassion and releasing generosity of spirit, comfort, and encouragement.
It astounds me how creative people can be in helping us break through distant objective indifference (which keeps us numb) and reminds us of the plight of others. One such occasion was in the unlikely context of France’s Got Talent last year. Two dancers presented the turmoil of migrant people around the world – in two minutes. And then another singer, unconventional, in an entirely different context, sings of hope. It’s often the arts that help keep us awake, sensitive rather than numb. Let’s not be afraid to feel the pain, and the joy of others. Such encounters have a way of silencing our analytical or jaded minds, touching our hearts – that at the core reflect the image of God in our yearning for justice, love, purpose, and pleasure.
Have a look, listen, see, feel. We can’t respond to everything but God will, and does. And in the experiencing we will become more alive and open to opportunities on our doorstep, in our families, at work, and among our friends. There we can be the difference, trickling salt, light, hope, love – just like Jesus.
Refuse to live numb, dumb, or glum! Take it from me, it’s a challenge, but what’s the alternative? I haven’t found a compelling one – Jesus is more than enough.