Reclaiming Outrage and Indignation

I’ll admit that outraged and indignant aren’t usually the first words that come to mind when I think of Jesus – not even the second, third or fourth. Though I know it isn’t accurate, I still tend to think of Jesus as the long-haired hippy of my youth, sitting with children in a field of flowers and teaching everyone to be nice. And then I read the Bible and see that Jesus is a multifaceted and complex person, not so easily written off by sentimental Hallmark cards.

Indignation is defined as “anger or annoyance provoked by what is perceived as unfair treatment.” Outrage is indignation on Red Bull. It is a little easier to see Jesus’s indignation with that definition in mind.

Remember the man with leprosy who said to Jesus, “If you’re willing, you can make me clean”? Jesus was indignant and said, “I am willing! Be clean!” Some translations says that Jesus was moved with compassion. I’d like to suggest that the two ought to be the same thing of a Christian. Perceiving injustice and unfair treatment ought to provoke something within us, fill us with compassion and cause us to take action.

I could go on. There was a man with a shriveled hand, a women whose back was bent in half, the money changers perpetuating a system of religious slavery… Jesus very impolitely upset the apple cart in each instance. He was not overly concerned with public opinion or what would be good for business. He was zealous and passionate, outraged by man’s injustice to man.

How many Christian men do you know that could walk into, say, a football stadium and drive out all the vendors and instill such fear into the security guards that they do nothing but stand on the sideline? That is what Jesus did in the Temple. I used to think that was a shabby illustration, until I learned how many children are sold or traded in the sex slave industry at sporting events, and Iowa is at the crossroads of the nation, smack dab in the middle of it.

My intent isn’t to stir up a lot of machismo within the Church. My hope is to elevate us to a greater level of awareness and action. I’m tired of being in the camp of limp and powerless Christianity. I want to burn for something… and that something is the Kingdom of God.

I’ve been reading a lot about vaccinations lately. As many of you know, the idea behind vaccines is to administer a sub-clinical dose of something so that the body will build a resistance and immunity, a process known as hormesis. I fear that the Western Church has been vaccinated against agape, love in action. We’ve built up such immunity to the Gospel message of a God of Justice that we’ve settled for a definition of agape as loving inaction. James would be pissed.

We suffer from chronic, low grade outrage in the West. Taxes, bills, road rage, email, and hectic schedules all contribute to our sense of entitelment. We’re “outraged” when there isn’t a parking spot close to the door, “so mad” that our neighbor’s dog pooped in our yard – come on folks, can we care about something important?

What about the fact that 1.2 million children are aborted in the U.S. alone every year? That is the equivilent of 333 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings happening every day of the school year. What about the fact that there are now more slaves in the world today than ever before in history? What about the fact that the most prosperous nation in history is also the most indebted, has the most incarcerated citizens and has hungry and homeless people dying in its streets every day?

And we’re concerned there might not be enough Tickle Me Elmos to go around?

I realize that some people might misconstrue my ideas of outrage and indignation for self-righteousness, a ‘savior of the world’ mentality. I assure you, I have no such delusions of grandeur. This world is a sinking ship, no matter what I do, or we do, we aren’t going to create the Kingdom of Heaven on the earth through our own efforts – only Jesus can do that.

I love the idea of transforming cities and discipling nations – that energizes me and gets my blood pumping. But it is naive and unbiblical to think that we are going to make the world a progressively better place until Jesus says “I guess they did it without me, might as well go back.” Not very “saviorish”. But that doesn’t mean we give up, huddle up and let the enemy continue to ravage the world around us. We fight, we make a difference one by one.

I think the Starfish Story illustrates this perfectly:

A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean.

“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?,” he asks.

“Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die.”

“But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”

The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”

“It made a difference to that one.” In the case of evangelism and salvation, it makes an eternal difference. Do we give up and call it vanity knowing we can’t save everyone and that this world is going to turn to ash? Not at all. The Kingdom we inherit is eternal, unshakable and only going to be revealed in its fullness at the end of the Age. Then we will see the impact of all the hours we spent throwing starfish back into the sea.

We can’t lose – the cross, death and resurrection of Christ assures us victory. Our task now is to prove our faithfulness and the quality of our character, not to God, but to ourselves. Will we hold on to our integrity when no one else is watching? Will we give ourselves wholeheartedly to the work of the Kingdom since we’ve accepted the promise of so great a reward?

I hope so. I want us to be the miraculous burning bush for all the world to see. It isn’t surprising to see trees spontaneously combust in the dry and brittle climate of the desert. But it is surprising to see one burn and burn and burn, longer than is right or that naturally makes sense. Anyone can burn with love for Jesus, passion for Justice or righteous indignation for a couple weeks or months, but I want to burn for decades. I want to more vigorously follow Christ at the end of my life than I do right now. I am hungry for my inheritance.

John Wesley is attributed with saying, “Set yourself on fire and people will come for miles to watch you burn.” That may be true, but I’d rather spark something in them. I don’t want spectators, I want a community of torches.

Will you burn with me?

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The Kingdom Now: Pursuing What Is Available

I have a burning desire to see God’s Kingdom come and His will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven. Far more than a rote phrase in the Disciple’s Prayer, this pursuit has become my passion – the thing I am willing to suffer most for in order to see it accomplished. I have a singular desire to see the Kingdom of God collide with and overcome the kingdom of this world and see Holy Spirit set wrong things right, especially in the areas of sickness, disease and death.

I will never stand before God and have to apologize for the way I am living my life. I will never stand before the Judgement Seat and say “I’m sorry God, I thought you were more loving. I thought you wanted to heal more people. I thought the Cross accomplished more…” No! God is the most overwhelmingly loving, caring and generous person I know. He wants to see people saved, healed and delivered far more than I do.

I’ve seen some amazing things in my life. A girl saved from the brink of death, a rotator cuff miraculously healed and a friend healed of Lyme’s disease. I’ve also had some major disappointments – a friend who didn’t rise from the dead despite me praying for him for six hours, other friends with chronic pain who haven’t been healed despite months of prayer and, most recently, a beautiful woman who wasn’t healed of blindness.

It is that last disappointment that prompted this post.

My wife and I host a college ministry on Thursday nights and it is a beautiful time of loving one another, worshipping and sharing what Father is teaching us. Since the start of the year, a young woman, let’s call her M, has been attending with friends. M is slowly losing her sight, to the point that now school work is almost impossible for her and she is going to have to receive some training for how to operate certain technologies usually reserved for the blind.

I was sharing last night about some of the things Father has been teaching me, especially my passion for healing and what I believe Jesus accomplished on the cross. I noticed M silently crying on the couch so, after I was done and we had started singing, I went to be with her.

We ended up talking for a long time after the majority of the group had left. She told me about her life, how losing her sight had affected her and her parents and the various ways she was trying to cope. At one point I heard her say, “I’ve been trying to convince myself that I don’t need my eyes to see the beauty around me” and that stuck in my heart like a knife. This woman has growing debt because her insurance won’t cover her treatments, she is in serious chronic pain, she feels increasingly lonely and isolated, she probably wont be able to finish school and now is trying to convince herself that she doesn’t really need her eyes.

My heart broke for her. I knew that the compassion I had for her suffering was only a small fraction of what Father felt for her, but she still wasn’t healed when I laid my hands on her and prayed.

I once heard Randy Clark give a message called “The Agony of Defeat” and it is the price he pays for the healing ministry. People come from around the world to get prayer from “the man of God” and sometimes nothing happens. I understand that agony a little differently now than I did when I first heard that message.

It is painful, embarrassing and humiliating to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom and not see fruit. It is a sincerely painful experience to believe with all your heart that God can heal, WANTS to heal, and still nothing happens. I feel like a fake, a huckster, some charlatan peddling snake oil as the cure for what ails you. Many times it makes me want to give up. It seems like the reasonable thing would be to give up preaching and believing in the supernatural to simply focus on what is humanly possible. But a friend gave me a beautiful definition of reason recently. He said that reason is “the leveraging of facts to prove an inferior reality.”

Facts devoid of God’s power, desire and intent are an inferior reality. The Superior Reality is the way we see God acting in the ministry of Jesus, what we call the Kingdom of God. I can never bring the Bible down to my level of experience when I preach and teach – it must always remain the standard that my life conforms to. God isn’t on trial, I am – we are. What will we do with what has been entrusted to us? What will we fight for? How fiercely will we pursue what is available to us?

Those questions keep me awake at night. They keep a fire burning hot within me to see what is possible. I really do believe that God exists, that He is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him and that He is a God who heals. I’m willing to stake everything on those beliefs.

I willing to pursue this on my own, but I’d much rather do so with a group of people who share this same passion. So, if any of you are reading this, please drop me a line, either an email or a comment. Perhaps we can figure out how to meet and pray and encourage one another in this pursuit.

As always, thank you for reading.