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Shane Claiborne’s lateat book ‘Jesus for President’ is is a radical manifesto to awaken the Christian political imagination, reminding us that our ultimate hope lies not in partisan political options but in Jesus and the incarnation of the peculiar politic of the church as a people “set apart” from this world.
In what can be termed lyrical theology, Jesus for President poetically weaves together words and images to sing (rather than dictate) its message. It is a collaboration of Shane Claiborne’s writing and stories, Chris Haw’s reflections and research, and art and design.
Drawing upon the work of biblical theologians, the lessons of church history, and the examples of modern-day saints and ordinary radicals, Jesus for President stirs the imagination of what the Church could look like if it placed its faith in Jesus instead of Caesar.
A fresh look at Christianity and empire, Jesus for President transcends questions of “Should I vote or not?” and “Which candidate?” by thinking creatively about the fundamental issues of faith and allegiance. It’s written for those who seek to follow Jesus, rediscover the spirit of the early church, and incarnate the Kingdom of God.
Shane talking about ‘Jesus for President’
Jesus was great. He cared about the ‘little people’ the weak, the uneducated, the outcast, the lonely and broken. He really couldn’t stand the ‘religious’ folk – the Pharisees, who appeared to have it altogether and walked all over the little people. The way they talked down to them and devalued them because they seemed so unimportant. He hated the way they behaved then and He still does hate the way ‘religious folk’ in church create their own man made rules and insist things are done their way at the expense of the weak and those on the edge who have no way of reaching their mark of acceptability. He hates the way the religious folk have their own little friendship circles which are closely guarded to stop undesirables getting in. He hates the way the religious folk lord it over, step over, step on and ignore the plight of the little people – today.
It’s just as bad if not worse in your average church today. Yes it’s more subtle but it’s as rife as ever. The rich, educated, middle-classes have the power and the wealth and the say so at the expense of the poor, uneducated and outcast. They claim to ‘see’ but are blind which can be seen by their actions. It’s all made to look completely acceptable. Everyone is ‘nice’ to those on the edge, they are polite and offer to pray etc but don’t include those kind of people in their social circles and don’t give them any value or worth. Jesus said people who call themselves ‘christian’ but show little or no compassion for the widow,the fatherless, the outcast, the lonely and ignored, the poor, the homeless and the desperate were not really in his Kingdom at all. (Matt 25:31-46.)
If Jesus stepped into your average church today I believe he would shout at those who profess to be his and live self centred, moral, upright and outwardly ‘good’ lives but refuse to make any sacrifice for their brother in need. Refuse to show any real compassion or love for the lost, the poor and marginalised. Not only that but they pile heavy burdens on the ‘little people’ with their rules and expectations which they can’t ever hope to meet. These expectations keep the poor and marginalised folk out of church and give a bad example of what God is like.
‘Poverty is neither nice nor pleasant. Nobody truly wants to be poor. We all want to move away from poverty. And still…. God loves the poor in a special way. Jesus did not say ‘Happy are those who serve the poor,’ but ‘Happy are the poor.’ Being poor is what Jesus invites us to, and that is much, much harder than serving the poor. The unnoticed, unspectacular, unpraised life in solidarity with people who cannot give anything which makes us feel important is far from attractive.
It’s the way to poverty.
Not an easy way, but God’s way, the way of the cross.’ – Jean Vanier, L’Arche Community.
When you look at powerful moves of God in the past they often start through a preacher who had a heart for the poor, or they start in a run down area where there is a concentration of poorer folk. Wesley, the famous preacher and revivalist believed in Gods partiality towards the poor:
…..almost to the point of prejudice-He [Jesus] ignored all those who are high and mighty and wealthy in the world in favor of the weak and meek and lowly. He did this even in the moral sphere, ignoring the just for sinners, and in the spiritual sphere, formally ignoring Israel for the Gentiles. It was to the latter group and not the former that He found Himself called. It was among the latter and not the former that He expected to find the eyes and ears that God had opened, and therefore the men of good-pleasure of Luke 2:14.
Jackie Pullinger who works with drug addicts in Hong Kong believes that God has a special place in his heart for the poor and shows up powerfully in their lives to defend their cause – which is entirely biblical. It is so clear from reading the Bible that care and compassion for the poor naturally overflows from the heart of anyone whose life has been transformed by the Holy Spirit. If we ask God he will show us a way to reach out and serve the poor around us. There are so many opportunities in every community for outreach to the poor and marginalised.Just befriending one person whom you would not normally socilaise with and including them in your life would make Gods heart sing. If every Christian took the time to really study what the Bible has to say concerning Gods partiality towards the poor we could very soon have a revival in our churches. Continue reading
The Bible contains more than 300 verses on the poor, social justice, and God’s deep concern for both. This page contains a wide sample of them, and some reflections will very likely feel a good deal of resistance (possibly at first manifesting itself as indifference). Churches in the west have departed strongly from Biblical values in these areas, and even created a rationalization– “prosperity theology”– for rejecting them. It takes time and reflection to get past this misteaching.
But try to get past the resistance. Spiritual growth doesn’t come from what goes down easily, or what we like to hear and read. It comes from what’s different, and even difficult.
It’s not a topic you hear preached on in any depth – well not in my experience. concern for the plight of the poor and social justice is very close to God’s heart and something as Christians we need to take very seriously – as there are grave consequences if we don’t.
A study of 2 Corinthians 8:
When Paul met with the original apostles, they agreed to divide the mission field—Paul would focus on the gentiles, and they would focus on the Jews (Gal. 2:9). But they did make one request of Paul: that he remember that many believers in Jerusalem needed financial help (2:10).
Paul was happy to remember these needs, for it gave gentile believers an opportunity to have some involvement with Jewish believers. Since the gospel began among the Jews, it was appropriate for gentile Christians to acknowledge and be thankful for the Jewish people. They could do this by sharing some of their material blessings.
Therefore, as part of his work with the gentile churches, Paul coordinated an offering for the saints in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:25-28; 1 Cor. 16:1 etc.). He described the importance of this offering in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. Continue reading