Jamie Moffett has recently come out with a documentary that follows Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw on their Jesus for President tour that took place earlier this year. The movie essentially tells stories of regular people who have decided to embody the politics of Jesus and live as “Ordinary Radicals.” If you’ve read J4P then it’s a great one to watch simply because you get to put a face to some of the stories that were told in the book. It proposes a lot of great ideas and tangible ways we can live as loving representatives of the Kingdom of God. I do have one objection to the movie and the “Jesus for President” movement as a whole. This movement has begun in reaction to the church’s over-emphasis (I emphasize “over” simply because I believe a healthy emphasis is good) on the redemption of the soul when it comes to salvation. Basically, it’s a group of people who were tired of hearing Christians talk about just going to heaven after we die as opposed to doing something here and now or bringing God’s Kingdom to “earth as it is in heaven.”
I agree that this overemphasis does miss a huge part of what Jesus came to do. Jesus entered into the world to redeem every aspect of humanity. He desires to heal us physically, emotionally, intellectually, sexually, financially, and yes, spiritually. To overemphasize just the spiritual aspect of Jesus’ healing is to miss the rest. But the pendulum seems to have swung to the other extreme within the Jesus for President movement. This, I believe, is clearly illustrated by a quote from The Ordinary Radicals film itself. It’s a quote from a guy named Zack Exley, a secular progressive attempting to work with the J4P movement in hopes of making amends with the religious community and working together towards a common goal. Here’s the quote:
“I heard this guy…give this sermon about who’s in and who’s out. Who’s going to heaven and who’s not. And he went through every single passage that said anything about heaven and it was pretty clear–we’re not going to heaven. Jesus is coming here. Heaven is coming to earth. Now they don’t care about converting people. They just care about building this wonderful, beautiful community.”
The J4P movement has slid from one extreme to the other and lost sight of sound scriptural theology. It seems very obvious to me that the New Testament emphasizes the need for conversion. There needs to be some sort of spiritual awakening that takes place in order to be saved. The book of Acts is a story of a group of believers proclaiming the gospel message (and living it out by sharing, serving, and loving the community) so that those who didn’t know Jesus would come to know him.
Jesus himself says in Matthew 7:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”
Prophesying, driving out demons, and performing many miracles in Jesus’ name. All very honorable acts. But the deciding factor is whether or not these people knew Jesus. This is what we need to be praying for. That we would truly know Jesus. That we would personally experience Jesus face to face. And that those we come in contact with would experience him as well. Yes, let’s serve those around us and love them with our actions, “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” as we show people that Jesus wants to meet every one of their needs, including their physical ones. But when all is said and done, what matters is whether or not we have a relationship with him. A deep, intimate, love relationship.
Anywho, a fair bit of thought stirring has occured within my mind since watching the film so I’ll go ahead and extend it as a recommendation.
Here’s the trailer just to wet your appetite: