Sunday, June 19, 2011
"They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, 'So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!' In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. 'He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.' Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him."
Abandoned, ridiculed and mocked, executed with criminals, his so-called "Messiah movement" faced the same end as so many had before. It was only fitting for one that clung to ideas of the last being first, blessing coming to the insulted and persecuted, the outcasts being included, God being present in the least. What else would you expect from a rogue rabbi whose students were simple tradesmen, rather than the best and brightest who were enrolled in the religious training normally required to follow a rabbi? It had been a movement of losers, and that's how it's leader died, - a loser.
For much of my life, I've worn this same label - as the fat awkward kid in middle school, the geeky kid even among the band geeks in high school, then blending in with the geeks and freaks in college. In my adult life, and especially in ministry the label has followed me - ministering in small ministries, with ministry after ministry fizzling and fading. Even now I'm faced with losing the funding for the housing and community organizing ministry I'm leading.
However, the mystery of the cross is that our biggest loss, through God's redemptive power, often becomes our greatest victory. Though in the eyes of those hurling insults the cross looked like Jesus' biggest loss, in the eyes of eternity it is seen as His greatest victory. Evil and violence were exposed, confronted, and overcome, and love, non-violence, and forgiveness were triumphant.
Martin Luther King Jr. recognized that at the heart of the early church movement, as well as the movement he found himself a part of, was a deep understanding that "right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant." Mother Teresa reminded us that "God has not called me to be successful, He has called me to be faithful." Prophets and saints that follow Christ's example often experience significant loss and fail to achieve the success the world exhorts them to achieve.
According to a board of directors, funders, or the culture around me, I may be a loser because I haven't achieved X, Y, or Z. But the X, Y, & Z of big organizational success, financial profitability, and acclaim/popularity, are just that - X,Y, & Z. Love for the fatherless, widows, and refugees are the A,B, & C that citizens of the Kingdom of God are called to be faithful to. This is how the last become first, this is how the loser is vindicated.
So I guess it's about time I came to grips with being labeled a loser. May we all be losers by the worlds standards, and may the redemptive power of God transform those losses into great victories for His Kingdom.