Today’s Word: ‘subversive’ as in… revolutionaries are usually subversive.
Jesus was a revolutionary leader in the first century. He was kind, loving, grace-filled, and very subversive. Jesus’ message was simple: love God, love others, be kind, show compassion, share what you have. By doing so you reveal God’s kingdom right here, right now. Jesus understood the human family as a community of equals; children of a generous God with boundless love and amazing grace.
This was a new social order and to reject it was to reject Jesus – the very presence and movement of God in flesh and blood. Whenever the conversation includes a new social order, things quickly get labeled ‘political.’ And when things get labeled ‘political’ there’s a disturbance in the force.
People can be uncomfortable with the idea that Jesus was political. But if Jesus wasn’t political, he wasn’t anything. As the first century began to pick up momentum, the Jewish people were under the rule and power of the Roman Empire which had conquered a big chunk of the world. Rome was a global military superpower unlike any had ever seen, and Caesar was in charge. It was believed that Julius Caesar, the first of several ruling Caesars was divinely born.
In the first century, if you were going to tell a story about a powerful leader, you would always include something about a unique birth that was somehow related to the gods. Virgin birth stories were common; that’s just how people told those stories. Everybody understood this: if you were truly a great leader sent from the gods to do something new in the world, of course you would have an extraordinary birth story.
But the idea of taking those unique and remarkable birth stories literally was never the practice. It was more about the poetic power of the story.
When data fails, poetry prevails. So the Roman empire expanded because the Caesars were masterful at telling stories and creating unifying narratives of global power, influence, and control.
So when Jesus began teaching about the power of love and grace of course it was deliciously subversive.