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11 May 2011

Would Jesus Recognize This Church?

Would Jesus recognize this Church?
And if not, is that a bad thing?
How has the church changed since the first century of this era?
~ Rome has fallen and has reconstituted itself as a Christian empire.
~ Christianity is now an imperial religion.
~ The Church is now even more multi-national than it was at its inception.
~ Slavery has been outlawed virtually everywhere.
~ Monarchy has been delegitimized, overthrown, truncated.
~ Monarchs are no longer the symbols of unlimited power short of the power of God, even when they are anointed, they are less than the anointed of God.
~ There is a sovereign if nominal Jewish state in which the Church has a presence.
~ Gender bias hasn't changed much.
~ There are powerful women leaders in the Church and beyond now as there were then.
~ And there are gender bigots now as there were then.
~ Women have more reproductive options now, live longer and generally have fewer children.
~ With the practice of contraception sex outside of marriage has become commonplace.
~ All of us have a much longer life expectancy.
~ Literacy is the norm for most members of the Church in most contexts.
~ Same gender love is no longer claimed the sole (contested) privilege of wealthy Greek men who exercise it in a rigid hierarchy.
~ Same gender couples and families are welcome and affirmed in many churches.

Would Jesus recognize this Church? Does it matter? Would Jesus want the Church to stay trapped in the first century? Was Jesus's approach to his disciples anything like Osama bin Laden's approach to Islam? Did Jesus want us to imitate and replicate his first century life and only his first century life in perpetuity? Or does Jesus want the Church to become something that we cannot imagine, something that transcends our expectations? Perhaps Jesus is exclaiming with awe and wonder, I wonder what they will think of next?


  1. In response to yesterday's post on "hassopheret:" I have thought this same question many times over the years, and finally came to a conclusion for myself. Although not a scholar of Koine Greek, I really don't care if Jesus of Nazareth said to Peter, on you "this rock, I will build my church." I don't think Jesus ever thought that he was laying the foundation for a church but rather a more faithful Judaism that could be more inclusive, more justice-making, and certainly more radical, more root. So, "no,' he would not recognize this Church. He would recognize that there is this multi-identity 'movement' that took the people's hope, that is, 'messiah,' and turned it into something else: the Greek, Kyrios, and Christ that became identified with him. He would recognize a community of faith in every age struggling to be faith yet in reality fragmented. He would recognize an institution, long ago becoming more interested in itself, its survival, and its power to control others, thus becoming the the farthest thing from the power of right relation he called "Abba." He would recognize the liberating gospel preached in his name that God is in our midst, peace is right next to us, and resurrection is when the good we seek to do lives on in the hearts and actions of those who have loved us and whom we have loved.

    That is what I think Jesus of Nazareth would recognize. He would simply recognize a community; and persons in it as being fully human and having become, if even for a fleeting moment, who he was and was sent to be, that is divinely fully human.