Here’s my personal journey on the subject of Jesus, love, and confrontation. It’s not complete (I’m not dead) but I really think this needs saying, and putting into action. I see love as a foundation of following Jesus, and without it you’ll really struggle!
I started off with a viewpoint of Jesus was/is a nice guy, love is fluffy, makes you feel nice and tolerates anything. Then my church started preaching about how Jesus wasn’t everyone’s best friend, which is a really relevant point.
I started reading my bible with this in mind. Joshua 10 and 11 are horrific. Matthew 23 is just rude. Jesus made people unemployed by destroying their workplace in John 2. Titus talks about warning a divisive person once or twice before having nothing to do with them. Luke 23, Jesus totally blanks Herod- the most powerful man in the region who was excited to meet Him. John the baptist majorly challenged people that travelled for days to see him in Luke 3. 1 Corinthians 5 is Paul ordering a believer be removed from the church.
And so I formed my opinion. “Everyone thinks Jesus is meek and mild and lovely, but they’re wrong! We can act however selfishly we want and be rude and not care because Jesus was sometimes rude!” (I exaggerate, but not as much as I would like). And I stayed there for a long time, and really struggled with patience, kindness, and treating others as more important than myself.
I’d gone straight past the truth. Instead of ‘Jesus was harsh’ it should have been ‘Jesus was harsh SOMETIMES’. In my haste to get away from the lie that Jesus was constantly nice, I’d created an equally simplistic theology where he was never nice. Worryingly, I was convinced I had this part nailed. It’s dangerously easy to justify a wrong viewpoint of love.
And then I went to Africa and met someone called Mondli that utterly annihilated my pet theology without saying a word. How? He was nice to me. And I thought ‘that’s really nice’.
And then: “If he’d done things how I would’ve, I’d have thought ‘he can be a bit impatient and rude at times’”.
God cares about everyone and wants all to know him and have a fulfilled and eternal life (there’s a reason it’s good news!) and our love for each other shows others that we follow him (John 13:35). If we’re getting this wrong it’s a lot bigger than ‘oops’- we can make good news look like bad news to those that don’t know Him!
So what is love? I believe Jesus directly confronted people and institutions when they obstructed others from their relationship with God. In my mind there is no question that Jesus could do the things that take incredible inner courage. I believe that we’re called to follow Him into confrontation, to stand up and be counted when it’ll make us unpopular, and to refuse to back down from following him, even when we’re totally bricking it.
And that’s half of it. The other half is that we need to follow Jesus into servanthood, doing incredible things to bless people above and beyond what is expected or reasonable! Jesus freely gave himself because he was doing what he saw God do, not because he felt better for doing it or guilty if he didn’t! How cool would a bunch of Christians living like that be?!!
Jesus spent the majority of his time being a really nice guy and doing nice things. Having the ability to boldly stand and confront evil without budging an inch doesn’t stop you being kind, patient and living 1 Corinthians 13, Col 3 and Gal 5 in your everyday life. If we look at Jesus and only see his success in confrontation, we miss the point- he didn’t come to earth to offend the religious leaders! He came to earth to proclaim good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, and proclaim the favourable year of the Lord! (Luke 4:18)
Jesus served, valued and healed the least important members of society. He was incredibly compassionate and gentle to those who sought him. He openly and unashamedly confronted the most powerful religious institution of his day for taking people away from God, and his obedience to God led him to die a horrible death. Jesus came to bring people into relationship with his Father, not condemn them. He freely lived out mercy and kindness, and made time to individually bless the outcasts and nobodies of his society.
And that’s my role model. Wow.