We start this 14-day journey with Jesus, because Jesus is the best picture we have of God. Jesus is what God has to say in this broken world (Hebrews 1:3). You might think that you already know all about Jesus and the Gospels. That he is nice, tame, and predictable—the kind of guy you’d meet for coffee and a chat after a Sunday-morning church service.
But during the next two weeks, I want to show you a side of Jesus that we have often been too scared to embrace, the Jesus who sends tables and chairs crashing over because he is gripped by a passion to interrupt injustice. The Jesus who parties late at night with the wrong crowd because he is so radically welcoming of those at the bottom of the heap. The Jesus who turns water into wine because that’s how he sees you and anyone on the edges—as water longing to become wine.
35 years ago my wife, Nay, fled the Khmer Rouge as a little girl. Her father had already been killed by the murderous regime, and her young mother managed to escape with two young children in tow through the Cambodian jungle. They cheated death with every step as they avoided landmines and eventually made it to a Thai refugee camp. In time, they were sponsored to New Zealand.
The thing is, I didn’t know then that that little six year old refugee girl would become my wife. I didn’t know that my mother-in-law and other folks who would become beloved extended family, were suffering. I didn’t realize I would have a kinship connection with the poor.
If I had, would I have done more? Would I have spoken out against anti-refugee rhetoric more strongly? Would I have made sure they were welcomed and their needs were well met? Of course I would have. (And I am grateful that my parents were actively involved in sponsoring and caring for refugees throughout my childhood.)
There is something profoundly important about the fact that Jesus called the poor and marginalized his “little brothers” (Mt 25:40). He declared a kinship connection with them so that any one of us who claim a relationship with Christ would also be automatically called to love them too.
Jesus deliberately chose to walk this earth as an undocumented child refugee. This was no accident. He could have been born and lived as a prince, a wealthy landowner or the Chief Priest. But instead He chose to become a refugee (Mt 2:13-15).
So, God’s heart is very much for those swept up in the brokenness of this world. He wants to turn it all upside-down. In fact, I’m convinced that Jesus wants to take everything you think you know—about family and faith, service and suffering, justice and joy, and yes, even about Jesus himself—and turn it all upside-down. The only question is, Are you willing to give him a chance?
Are you willing to examine him in a new light?
I’ve learned that where you stand determines what you see, so over the next two weeks I’m going to invite you to stand with me for a while—in the slums and ghettos of the world, among the poorest of the poor and see Jesus with fresh eyes.