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An Invitation: The Idolatry of Scripture

Josh Pinkston

“Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”
He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here.
If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
— Matthew 12.1-8

This passage of Scripture has been on my mind since mid-May. It always stands out to me when Jesus contradicts the Scriptures and traditions. Jesus is declaring people innocent who are breaking clear Scriptural laws mandated by God. What a  shocking thing for him to do! And he makes contradictory statements elsewhere. For instance, Jesus quotes Exodus and Leviticus where God is quoted as saying: 

Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. … I am the Lord your God.
— God, Leviticus 24.20 & Exodus 21.24

But Jesus contradicts this direct quote from God in Scripture in Matthew 5:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
— Jesus, Matthew 5.38-45

The beautiful and very small (I stood at the back of the room to take this picture) Sky Farm Hermitage Chapel in Sonoma, CA.

Now, I don’t see this as a reason to throw out the Scriptures, and neither did Jesus (while tempted in the desert, it was Scripture that he quoted in the face of each temptation). I see it as an invitation. If my faith was in the Bible, it would be a catastrophic blow to my religion. But, thankfully, my faith is in God. Jesus addressed this differentiation while speaking to the Pharisees:

You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.

— Jesus, John 5.39/40

I remember hearing a pastor say to a protestant congregation, “We don’t worship the Bible, but we get about [pinching his fingers close together] thaaaat close.” My heart sank when I heard this. I realized he was under-exaggerating. The idolatry of the Scriptures is the cause of so much division and condemnation. A.W. Tozer called people “Textualists" who “magnify the Scriptures so much that they block the very Light they are meant to reveal.” That may be a more proper name for contemporary Christianity than “Christian” (which means “little Christs”).

Scriptural contradictions and inconsistencies are an invitation to dive deep within ourselves to find what the Spirit is bringing about in our lives. They can also be things we just happily read over and move past. We don’t need to burden ourselves with information, when the invitation is to relationship. We can remain focused on that relationship.

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

— Jesus, Matthew 22.37-40

And there it is.

Some read this and see no use for Scripture. Consequently, those folks tend to be inclined toward emotionalism and self-centeredness (I know this from experience, of course). The other side reads this and obsesses with the Law and the Prophets for a more in-depth understanding, but tend to get lost in a religion that draws and defines lines between people and God, a deceptive and destructive form of self-centeredness (I know this from experience, of course).

There is a middle path though. And Jesus incarnates it.

Scripture helps us incalculably in learning to live out those two commandments with pure hearts, unstained by ego and self-centeredness (self-centered kindness is possibly the most destructive of sins). If something in Scripture brings out the opposite of what Jesus describes in Matthew 22, let’s do what Jesus did, humbly and happily contradict it while moving along in relationship.

An Invitation

Josh Pinkston

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
— Jesus, Matthew 11.28-30

For the past few months, I’ve been meditating daily with this invitation of Jesus’. It has become increasingly meaningful. I recommend reading it internally, slowly, and repeatedly. Not just because it has meant something to me, but because Jesus’ words are worth savoring.

What has stuck with me the most has been Jesus’ defining himself as "gentle and humble in heart” and that his “yoke (teaching/way of living) is easy” and his “burden is light.” It never ceases to be refreshing for me to know this about Christ. When my faith and/or religion make feel weary or burdened, I must be doing it wrong. It saddens me to know that the portrayal of Christianity that most of us are given is so burdensome. For one reason or another, much of the church has handed down a Christianity that is brutal and arrogant, rather than gentle and humble.

I could spend days, months, and years (and already have) trying to form and answer questions like: Why has Christianity strayed so far from the character of Christ? How did we get here? How do people read Jesus’ words and interpret ways to isolate and condemn others?

While those might be good questions to ask and sit with, I believe it’s more important to find and provide an alternative. Every criticism carries with it the responsibility to be the alternative we had hoped to see. Otherwise, we’re just Negative Nancy’s and Defeatist Darryl’s.

It seemed like my teens and early twenties were for pointing out inconsistencies and fallacies in others because I hadn’t really lived enough to invent any of my own (or at least an awareness of it). For the past decade or so, it’s been about trying to be what I had hoped others would’ve been. This, in and of itself, can bring about an amazing amount of weariness and burden. It’s also one of the many reasons Jesus brings what is actual Good News (the literally meaning of the word “Gospel”).

Jesus extended an invitation to all who are weary and burdened, especially to those who are so by their religion and religious leaders. It is freeing to know that true-Christianity doesn’t look burdensome, painful, or heavy. So, whatever might be burdening me in my faith should be looked at very carefully and critically.

Is it necessary? Are it’s roots found in fear? Is it simply a moral or behavioral argument or does it have to do with my ability to be in relationship with the Divine?

In order to accept Christ’s invitation extended to the weary and burdened, we need to have the courage to throw off the things to which we are truly yoked. To what are we bound? Another way to phrase this question might be: What things have we allowed to define us personally?

When we are yoked/united with Christ, we discover that when Jesus describes himself he is also describing us. For, if Jesus truly is "the image of the invisible God,” we need to pay attention because we are ourselves made in God’s own image! So, when Jesus says, “I am gentle and humble in heart and my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” we can realize that this is the revelation of who we truly are. In our hearts, we are humble and gentle! 

We’ve somehow grown up to believe we are so many other things: angry, hurt, anxious, bossy, afraid, shy, or weak. Those are conditions we’ve developed. Many of them are innocent defense mechanisms which have formed an incasing around our hearts and true selves. They are not our true identity. We are gentle and humble in heart. Taking on the closeness of Christ in all and through all (like two yoked oxen plowing through a dried field), we discover this over and over again.

Today when you feel angry and inflated with yourself, simply remember, you are gentle and humble in heart, and there is One who will yoke with you to show you how to get through “this” as such. 

We're moving to Santa Clara!

Josh Pinkston

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
— Jesus, Matthew 11.28-30

Sometimes I think to myself, “I must be doing this wrong.” And by sometimes I mean rather frequently ever since my latter teen years. The statement from Jesus (above) is essentially him replying to that thought with a wonderfully encouraging, “Yup.”

I’ve been praying that passage from Matthew for the past few months and it’s been incredibly reorienting. Ambitions, dreams, ideas, fears, and desires quickly become the alter where I pray to God. And the fruit of this is anxiety. It’s a shallow comfort (though comfort nonetheless) to know I’m not alone in this. I see it in the majority of Christians. And as the old adage goes, it takes one to know one.

Our ability to identify things in other peoples lives is only made possible by our ability to identify with those things (hence, “Do not judge lest you be judged” – Jesus, Matthew 7.1).

This is only one of the many reasons we are moving to Santa Clara.

Portland, we miss you already. Your weirdness, honesty, sincerity, and openness will stay with us always. Our neighbors here have made our lives rich and sweet. We love you and hope to return one day.

Santa Clara, here we come! We can’t wait to see how our lives unfold together as we welcome our son and many growing friendships who share a bright view of the future. Thanks for welcoming us the way you have!

I know it seems like we just moved to Portland and that’s because we did. But things change.

Essentially, we moved here because of Ryan and Shelly Brown. Geez. They are just two of the most wonderful, inspiring, kind, warm, accepting, encouraging, and loving a schlub like me can find. Now, they’re moving to Spokane, WA for a truly superb opportunity that couldn’t be more fitting for them. We’re excited and happy for them, but Spokane is a little far for us. Things change. Thank God for Facetime.

The wonderful folks at Valley Life Center in Santa Clara invited us to come start our family with them while also be a part of what’s going on there with the hopes of developing an internship/residency program emphasizing on a contemplative focus. It is literally the dream job. And the faith community depicts so well what Shawna and I have hoped to find. We couldn’t have seen this coming. But things change. It’s impossible to emphasize enough how excited we are to learn to be parents in this new community. The timing couldn’t be better. We’re extremely grateful. Thank you Brook & Autumn Fonceca and Stu & Jendy Nice! We’re overflowing with gratitude, hope, and joy.

So, seven month pregnant Shawna and I are on the road with our deaf dog Kitty, taking the scenic route (in more ways than one), and journeying to our new home (in more ways than one). Our Instagrams will be ablaze; as will our hearts. The adventure continues. Things change. And then the adventure continues.

We’re looking forward to being nearer to friends and family with our baby. We’re looking forward to the peacefulness that we feel drawing us into this new season. We’re looking forward to Love unfolding and growing and incarnating within our lives more and more.

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.
— Jesus, John 14.27

Fourteenth (final) Station of the Cross: Jesus is laid in the tomb

Josh Pinkston

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
– Jesus, Luke 17.33

This may be the most avoided station in our lives: to bury what needs to be buried, even when it’s Jesus.

The few disciples that stayed with Jesus’ dead body had loved him, learned from him, believed in him, and still had the wrong idea about him. Their theology was very off. But their love was pure.

They were convinced that Jesus was the Anointed One who would free them from the Roman dominion over their lives and land. They were wrong. But their love for Jesus was bigger than their idea of him.

This scenario is still very much a reality today. We have wrong theologies, beliefs, opinions, and ideas about Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, and everything else. It runs rampant. It also causes a terrible amount of division and damage. Certitude is an idol. When we blindly and strongly believe the theologies about the Anointed One handed to us, we repeat the Pharisaical cycle.

Don’t be afraid to question your beliefs. Don’t be afraid when your beliefs are questioned. Is our faith merely belief? Or is it a Divine Loving Relationship?

It’s okay to bury theologies that are wrong, especially when they are divisive. It’s okay to bury religious opinions that are wrong, especially when they are uninformed and ignorant. It’s okay to bury ideas about God because He is and will always be infinitely bigger than any idea we try confining Him to, and resurrection can’t happen without there first being a burial. Lastly, it’s okay to be wrong. All of the disciples were, yet Jesus’ demeanor remained the same: Love, Invitation, and Relationship. Too many feel like if they bury one part of their theology they must bury the whole thing and walk away. That is truly unfortunate. 

Let’s not let our tremendous Faith be reduced to education and right vs wrong. If it were about that, Jesus would’ve spoken plainly, rather than in parables. Thankfully, he is purposefully and powerfully perplexing. Facts, figures, and arguments will never prove our faith because they are not what our faith is about (though many will try).

Let’s let our Faith be about loving Jesus, in all and through all, for that is how Jesus presents himself to us. “There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free (or whatever other kinds of divisions you can dream up): but Christ is all, and in all,” (Colossians 3.11). True love for Christ is greater than love for an idea of Christ (a principal that applies to all relationships).

In silence. In solitude. These are the greatest and most challenging places to begin; where we encounter the testimony of our faith within ourselves. It is the only thing that proves our faith. Find It within yourself and it won’t be so inconceivably difficult to find It in all and through all.

Christ Jesus, grant me to be with You; at all times, in all ways, in all places. To be with You as You are with me.”

Thirteenth Station of the Cross: Jesus’ body is taken down

Josh Pinkston

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
– Jesus, Luke 17.33 

A picture taken at The Grotto's Stations of the Cross in Portland, OR.

There were some who did not abandon Jesus, even when it looked like they could no longer gain anything from him. They no longer felt or saw the Hope that he gave them. They did not expect or pray for any miracles, happiness, consolation, insight, wisdom, or resurrection. They loved him beyond only being a recipient of his life and Love. They didn’t run away from the pain of his crucifixion even when everyone else did. They came closer. Because of this, the joy of his resurrection was even greater and more real to them!

In a strange and beautiful way, they became a part of the crucifixion. They didn’t leave his body. They buried it. What is our part in the crucifixion?

We normally ignore the ugly painfulness in life by trying to cover it up with the wonderful blissfulness parts of life. It’s how addiction begins forming. Things become addictions because we cyclically and desperately try canceling out the areas of ugly painfulness in our lives with blissfulness. But blissfulness does not cancel out or erase life’s ugly painfulness. It only helps us forget it for a moment. And we confuse that “bliss” with freedom from pain. They coexist together. And to ignore one is to not fully be present to the other.

Here’s another way of looking at it. Jesus had seemingly failed these people who buried him. They expected and hoped to be saved and set free and then be a part of his earthly kingdom, but he died. Many felt like Jesus failed them and so they ran. A select few didn’t run, but came closer by tending to his dead body.

Where has Jesus failed you? Did you pray for something and instead receive the exact opposite? Did you believe in something and later find that it wasn’t true? I think those experiences are all a reality, especially for any of us who’ve grown up in church.

But what are you doing about it? Have you fled from that time when Jesus was seemingly dead to you? Have you tried covering it up with Scriptural platitudes? Have you tried ignoring that it ever happened in the first place or completely disassociating yourself?

These marvelously loving people stayed with the dead body of Jesus. We can do the same. We can go back to the areas in our hearts where we felt like Jesus was dead to us and sit with it. Tend to it. Bury it. Ask the horrible questions we’re afraid to ask. Say the things we we’re terrified to say. One thing is for certain, Jesus is the resurrection. If we refuse to be honest about those times in our lives when Jesus was dead to us, religion has failed us, or church has hurt us, how can we experience the resurrection?

This is not an excuse for wallowing in bitterness or anger. Those are responses to these points in our lives, not the points themselves. This is a hope to get us through the bitterness and anger that have veiled us from these points so we can lovingly and trustfully approach our moments of ugly painfulness and disappointment.

Stick with Christ through the areas where Christ has seemingly abandoned you. Let your faith be about more than getting things and consolations from God. Let it be about Love; in all and through all. Then, failures start looking a lot more like opportunities and moments of hope-fullness.

Christ Jesus, grant me to love You, not that I might gain eternal heaven, nor escape eternal hell, but, Lord, to love You just because You are my God.
– Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Twelfth Station of the Cross: Jesus dies on the cross

Josh Pinkston

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
– Jesus, Luke 17.33 

With his last breath Jesus called out in a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit,” (Luke 23.46, Jesus is quoting Psalm 31.5). This prayer was the condition of his entire life leading up to this moment. The statement is poetic and profound as well as intimate and insightful. Even while he is being very literally physically subjugated by his peers, church leaders, and government officials, he never confused their authority over his body with God’s authority within his spirit. He was free, even in the midst of physical, governmental, and social domination. Christ offers us a freedom which transcends circumstance.

But does that even interest us? Or we so entrenched in the idolatry of circumstance that we are completely indifferent to the depth, height, length, and width of this Divine offering?

Regularly, our faith and prayer are used to commit our spirits to our own hands. We confuse the freedom of being with Whom we want with getting what we want. We use God in our pursuit of happiness, rather than using happiness in our pursuit of God. 

A few years ago, I discovered how I was using my religion to commit my spirit to my own hands. My belief in God was more about manipulation than maturation. I was trying to manipulate a happy life and believed that having the “right” beliefs or opinions about God was a way to get it. Believing the correct belief was what would make God happy and powerful in my life. This ultimately led to my holding on more tightly to my beliefs of God than the precepts and presence of God. “Beliefs” (or what can more appropriately be called, opinion) can become emotionally charged and have more to do with our pride in knowledge. And this begets fights and division and condescension.

Jesus did not fight for his life. His spirit was free and no one could give him that or take that away from him except God, Whom will only ever give it and never take it away. Anger and fighting are the product of bondage to knowledge. We are not committing our spirits into the hands of God by forming opinions of what those hands look like, who they will accept, or who they will reject. We are doing the opposite. We are attempting to commit God’s Spirit into our own hands.

How often do we fight for our honor or our rights or our beliefs or our emotions? Jesus did not define himself or others by those things, but by how God saw him and others. That is the only thing worth fighting for. But the kind of fighting that it requires looks very different from our kind of fighting. It looks like fighting our urge to fight. It looks like freely accepting death, in all of its myriad of manifestations. 

“Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit; my honor, my rights, my beliefs, my thoughts, my emotions, my life.”

Eleventh Station of the Cross: Jesus is nailed to the cross

Josh Pinkston

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
– Jesus, Luke 17.33 

It is so helpful to place ourselves in the shoes of those whom we can’t understand. 

From our hindsight vantage point of Christ’s crucifixion, it is easy to get wrapped up in bewilderment over the crowd and government’s behavior and actions. But when we take the time to put ourselves in their place, without a context of the centuries following the event, we can see how we are not so unlike them.

An example of this can be found in how the people added to Jesus’ torture by saying, "He saved others, He cannot save Himself ... Let Him come down from the cross now and we will believe in Him." How often do our prayers sound very similar to this?

Do this and then I will believe.” I know that I have prayed that way many, many times. It has been at points that I would call crisis’ of faith, like when our first son passed away before birth. I saw the figurative nails that pierced his body and felt the death and pain and prayed, “If You really are God and worth anything, prove it! Help our son!” The help I wanted, believed in, and asked for never came. Just like what those people asked for Jesus to do for them while hanging on the cross never got it. If you think about it, we would call it a good prayer, “Jesus, please do this and we will believe in You!” Yet, hopelessly, they watched this man who gave them hope and performed miracles hang there and die.

Is God only worth seeking, following, and worshiping because we believe He can do powerful things? Or is there more? Our understanding of power and the miraculous blinds us to Its reality. We see the miraculous in Jesus changing the condition of the leper, but completely overlook it in the helpless circumstances of being nailed and dying. But It is there!

Life. Life is miraculous. Literally, all of life is sacred and miraculous.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,” (John 1) “there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live,” (1 Corinthians 8) “in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, … all things have been created through him and for him,” (Colossians 1).

Yet, we ask for more. We want something else. We want Life to be something other than it is right now. We plead for God to do and be something other than what God is in this sacred and unfolding moment.

Jesus modeled for us that Life is not just something that is effortlessly happening, but also a choice. Our actions are either those of Life or death. Life is a Way of Being: Love in the face of hate, forgiveness in the face of woundedness, peace in the face of confusion, kindness in the face of callousness, and gratitude in the face of grief. These things cultivate and give Life. And through Christ, all Life exists.

Do I wish my son had lived? With every fiber of my being. But I am also eternally grateful for the time we had with him because his life, as tiny and limited as it was, brought us life more abundantly than we could have ever imagined. Our lives grew because of him. And our ability to love his brother has grown because of what he brought into our lives. His life was and is a miracle and nothing less.

I would be completely remiss if I recognized the grief felt in my son’s life more than his life itself. His grief does not eclipse his worth and significance. He’s worthy of loving and mourning because of his inherent, internal, and eternal value, not because of circumstantial and temporal pain. I believe it is the responsibility of people of faith to consciously and actively strive to live with this Reality.

Our prayers and beliefs too often reflect the sentiments of those who looked at the wounded Christ and said, “Do something miraculous and we will follow you.” Would they have instead observed and been present to His pain and death like the centurion who watched Him breathe his last breath, they would have exclaimed with him, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15.39)

How often do we blind ourselves to and limit the evidence of God’s presence and love by expecting it to only be expressed the way we see fit and imagine? All the while, the greatest expressions of God’s presence and love are taking place right in front of us. “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!' For behold, the kingdom of God is within you,” Jesus said (Luke 17.20/21).

“Christ Jesus, grant me to love You without limiting You, to seek You everywhere without forsaking Your being right here, right now.”

Tenth Station of the Cross: Jesus is stripped of his clothes

Josh Pinkston

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
– Jesus, Luke 17.33 

One of the reasons the exercise of slowly going through the Stations of the Cross is so helpful is because it allows us to spend time with the personality and character of Christ at a deeper level than observation. This deeper level of connection is profoundly important; it is the threshold of transformation.

When we comprehend the gravity of Jesus’ words coupled with his actions, it gives us a remarkably clear lens (or revelation) through which we are able to comprehend our own existence. The Tenth Station of the Cross is an outstanding example of this.

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry he says, “If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back,” (Luke 6). At the end of Jesus’ ministry, “they divided up his clothes by casting lots,” (Luke 23, the Tenth Station). Jesus preached what he practiced. He didn’t just dreamingly babble about romantic ideals about a far away heavenly realm for us to agree are good. He calls us to a way of living; the Way of Living.

Yet, our behavior often reflects very little of this aspect Christ’s character, preaching, and personality. How often do we hear Christians whining about their gun-rights being taken from them? How often do we hear Christians complain about their definition of marriage being taken from them? How often do we (Christians) blame our government, teachers, bosses, parents, friends, or spouses for not giving us what we need or for taking away something that was “ours” while at the same time call a man “Lord” who had the very clothes on his body stripped off of him and distributed to others and whose “freedom of speech” brought about his death?

Do we see ourselves freely giving as we have freely received? If not, I can’t help but conclude that we must not be firstly freely receiving. Receiving denotes openness and space or room for taking in something. Are we just too full of comfort and opinion to receive?

I am in no way wanting to sound like I have accomplished this level of living. Because I haven’t! But the regular and daily practice of Silent Prayer has consistently disciplined my heart to being open and receptive in a Way that is slowly but surely freeing my heart from the confusion of thinking/believing that satisfaction can be found in any person, place, or thing other than the abiding love and presence of Christ, in all and through all. If you take my shirt, will I get pissed? Almost definitely. But do I think that is your fault? No. It is mine, for being so connected to a silly thing like a shirt. The same applies to gun laws, marriage laws, job positions, and a slew of other things we confuse for “ours”.

What do clothing, money, or possessions matter to someone whose happiness, satisfaction, and love are complete and abiding? This is Jesus’ invitation to all! Look no further than the kingdom of heaven, which Jesus clarified is within you (Luke 17.21).

“Christ Jesus, grant me the strength to press on to take hold of that for which You took hold of me; To persevere until I am mature and complete, lacking nothing.” (Philippians 3 & James 1)

Ninth Station of the Cross: Jesus falls a third time

Josh Pinkston

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
– Jesus, Luke 17.33 

Tradition says that Jesus fell for a third and final time. This is such a poignant depiction of Jesus’ humanity as well as the physical representation of the abused and ignored presence of God. None of those people persecuting and abusing Christ saw God. Had they, it would have ended immediately. They weren’t evil; just blind and oblivious. Jesus proclaimed it powerfully, “They know not what they do.”

We all have many areas where we, like them, don’t see Christ: finances, family, sex, politics, work, and/or school. Even our religion can become so focused on opinion and “right-thinking” that we no longer see God, we see doctrine and theological arguments. We fight, scream, accuse, condescend, gossip, and demean like He’s not right there, right now. We tear at the Reality of His presence in all and through all. And still, Christ powerfully intercedes, revealing the heart our Father, “They know not what they do.”

Where is the presence of Christ being ignored and blindly punished in your life?

As a Christian, I am entrusted with the knowledge of God’s abiding love and presence in all and through all. Whatever other knowledge I think my faith gives me falls second to this.

For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. — 1 Corinthians 8.6

Jesus lived from this Reality, which is why Isaiah prophesied about the Christ, “He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” When we finally see that God is all and in all and through all, we will instinctively and naturally emulate the active peacefulness which Christ reveals to us.

Do we view people and circumstances as inconveniences, oblivious to God’s presence? Or do we trust and love in the abiding Life of Christ within and around us?

“Christ Jesus, grant me the conviction of Your abiding love and presence and the courage to participate with You in every moment, in every place.”

Eighth Station of the Cross: Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem

Josh Pinkston

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
– Jesus, Luke 17.33 

Many women followed, mourned and wept aloud while Jesus was marched to the crucifixion. I’ve already written about the significance of a woman’s ability to more readily grasp and appreciate the story of Jesus’ passion. Personal pain ushering in new life is something they are raised up knowing in a way that is very foreign to men. It is difficult for me to not spend more time on this thought because it is such an important one that is completely overlooked in most church settings. We need to make more room for women to help us understand their understanding of “life and life more abundantly.”

Since I’ve already written a bit about that aspect though, I want to focus on how Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. ... For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” There is so much to chew on in this statement.

Why were women mourning and not scattering like the men? How does Jesus turn to them and instruct them to not weep for his being physically tortured and led to an excruciating crucifixion, but to think of their children and the years ahead? I know most of us can’t place ourselves in other people’s shoes like this when we’re experiencing oppression and adversarial people in our lives. But, somehow, Jesus does this seemingly effortlessly. His heart continuously goes out to those around him.

I can’t help but note the freedom in this. To be experiencing completely oppressive circumstances and to still have the mental, emotional, and spiritual freedom to put yourself in someone else’s shoes: love them, care for them, and be there for them … it’s beyond comprehension! It is merely and simply through Love that Jesus was able to do this. It leads me to remember that God cannot be fully known by the analytical mind, but by love alone. Love transcends places, circumstances, understandings, hurts, and opinions. It is freedom! And God is Love! 

Jesus was fully in love with God, and this made him fully in love with the people around him, in all and through all. Because of Jesus’ great Love, he saw his present circumstance as a part of a greater whole and identified himself with his oppressed “neighbors.” This Divine understanding expressed itself as selfless compassion.

Looking at the end of his life, it is no wonder why Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to love God and love your neighbor. He even said that loving your neighbor was like loving God.

“Christ Jesus, grant me a heart that transforms pain into compassion."