Anarchism, to me, amounts to an expectation of miracles: political, economic, sociological, psychological and spiritual miracles. It isn’t the way the world normally works. I believe in miracles and I love the idea of them, but scripture and church history suggest to me that we are not to replace our daily duties of shalom-making with hopes that God will specially intervene to do all the tough stuff for us. Instead, I think we’re supposed to garden – and gardening, as we all know, means getting your hands dirty, doing the best with what you’ve got, doing violence to pests, dealing realistically with the constraints and opportunities of the situation and taking the long view – with hope of a good harvest to share.
So says Canadian theologian John Stackhouse in an article to Christian anarchists wanting to be “like Jesus.” Even though I’m not an anarchist, I loved reading this article because it’s nice to read something for once that talked about being a Christian in a world of mortgages, messy houses and long commutes. Here was a writing talking about discipleship in the Monday-Friday world.
If there’s something that I’ve grown tired of is the whole trend in American Christianity to be “radical.” We don’t want some meek and mild Jesus; no sir. We want a Jesus who is kicking ass and takin’ names like he did in the Temple when he threw out the money changers. We want a radical Jesus and we want to be just like him; radical and taking no prisoners.
There is so much wrong with this. Let’s start with the most obvious problem. I am not Jesus and neither are you. Yes, Jesus was tough on the proud, but, how I can put this gently? Jesus was God, we are not. His overturning the tables was as much about judgement as it was Jesus being pissed. The second problem is that I don’t think people know what they are asking for. You want a wild and crazy Jesus? Yeah, it’s nice when that Jesus is going after those folks who you don’t happen to like, but what happens when he comes and looks at you and your shortcomings? What about your compromises to consumerism, your stinginess in giving to help the poor?
Yeah, it’s not so funny when it’s your applecart getting overturned by the Son of God.
The thing is, this desire to be like Jesus, to be “radical” is a fools errand. Yes, we should be Christ-like, but know that you, I , all of us are going to fall short. We can’t approach the holiness of Jesus because, well, last I checked, I can’t turn water into wine and I haven’t rose from the dead.
Which is why I like Stackhouse’s essay with his emphasis on seeing the Christian life more like gardening than a revolution. I’m not a great gardener, but I do try as the Minnesota winters move into spring. I like planting flowers and looking for the right soil to keep my plants healthy and beautiful. I like watering them and trying to get rid of all the weeds that could choke the life out of the flowers. Gardening is an art, it’s hit and miss. Not every Christian is called to be a rebel. Some of us are simply called to do the best we can with what we have. We are called to cultivate, to be faithful disciples that tends to our friends, neighbors and community with the light of Christ. I work with Jesus, when he’s not overturning tables, as together we plant and weed and feed.
The wild Jesus comes and judges us. We face a test where there is no winner. But Jesus also comes as the gardener who prunes and waters us; giving us grace.