In Luke—a doctor’s scribble scratch—the writer records Jesus’ odd clarification of His posture. They [Jesus and disciples] meet an eager recruit who says, “Hey, where you’re going, I’ll following. I’m into your work.” And Jesus responds with this: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay His head. ” Now I don’t know about you here, but what is He talking about? Is He really venting about His sleeping accommodations or is there something else going on? Did He think this guy didn’t know what life on the road would be like? Obviously he’d heard what Jesus had been doing and was moved by it. But why did Jesus find it necessary to articulate His position to this man? What was He trying to tell him?
Maybe Jesus was suggesting that being on His side requires more than just ideological agreement with Him.
If you’re like me, you’ve likely spent the past few years vacillating in political inconsistency. Searching for a side to support you’ve wavered Right to Left, from moderate to extreme—extreme confusion to disillusionment. From a short list of choices, you’ve made an even shorter list of what you were told were the “important issues”. And so you’ve made many decisions based on a few items only to likely—a short time later—disagree completely with your initial rationale. You may at this time be deeply confused and searching for a safe home to support, side with and defend. But what—and namely who—do you choose? After all, choosing leadership is difficult and disillusioning: Many pro-life candidates support a controversial war, which some see as devaluing civilian lives. But the antiwar candidates rally the cause of abortion and do equally the same. One side calls for compassionate faith, the other emphases rationality and reason—but neither one prioritizes poverty.
These are our choices? Respectfully, are these politicians our leaders—I mean true leaders? When people ask me what I am (politically) I have no idea what to say. Because I’ve found that inevitably every label has eventually failed me. And every affiliation has disappointed me with their actions or comparable inaction. Are you there as well? Have you experienced this? Where are we to be, what side do we choose, and how do we stomach continuing to be there as Christ’s name is co-opted for causes we wish not to endorse?
Reading the Gospels has a way of quietly reshaping and challenging our supposition— convictions we once elevated to positions of such great importance. Jesus puts on more faces and hats than the king of pop. You thought you knew what He would say or do—and then He does it, and you’re left wondering what just happened. Interesting how it takes us time, but always later makes profound sense. Following Jesus—I’ve heard—is a lot like looking at your life in reverse. It often makes good clear sense afterward but causes some serious confusion along the way. But of course it must be this way, for if we knew all the moves Jesus would make, and could accurately predict them, would we still call it following? If it weren’t so, we would be out in front of Jesus, running ahead and waiting for Him to catch up, maybe even suggesting to Him where it is we should go. As such, following His lead inevitably causes us to revisit and retrace our steps. If we have the humility to do so, we also—in time—call in to question the judgments we’ve previously held dear and self-defining. And if we allow it, the whole process must make us wonder if it really is possible to do so [pick sides, hold accurate judgments, etc] while holding onto our hearts’ clear conscience.
Because while we keep choosing the right side, Jesus keeps appearing with those who do not have a side represented. Effectively, the Captain has gone down with the ship. And Jesus—in the social sense—seems to have committed again a form of political suicide. Our causes should have hands and hearts. He’s with the people He champions, but where are we—alone with our ideologies?
Maybe Christ would suggest to us a strategy; a gentle abandoning of the traditional posts, held too firmly to be maintained. Maybe His suggestion is less a choice, but enacted instead out of necessity—for the survival of our hearts. Perhaps He would help us in imagining a new place for ourselves—outside the establishment. And perhaps it is this prepared place that was fit for us all along, to teach us and illuminate new meaning on old worn out scriptures that once seemed so simple and understood. Maybe there in the nowhere Jesus would call us both to the margins and to the middle, where remaining requires we be humble, judge no one and sleep in tiny tents so that we may quickly move to be where He is, just was, or may be heading.
Think of the relevance of such an imagined place within the Jesus story: The baby King born of dishonorable circumstance, ruler of an invisible kingdom, a problem to the political system, rejected by the religious, at home on the road, dinner with the enemy, even killed by His own people. And now known but outwardly unseen, shrouded in mystery. This is not a God of memorized dictates and wordy oaths. This is someone entirely known yet altogether unknown to us—completely unique in otherness, but just like us, somehow loving us. We are reading the ultimate outsiders’ story. Jesus our homeless anti-hero, lighting a candle in the night, waiting up and watching for us. Finding us and inviting us to His work.
It’s only sensible that following Him then requires more than just circumventing the problematic elements within the world. Christianity is not a club and Jesus is more than a figurehead. If Jesus is a person—as He says He is—and if God makes Himself known, then a Christ-like life must then be more than just believing, but knowing and doing with Him as well, just as we would with one another. Life in such a place lived with Him therefore may not be sustained through mere strategic alignments, affiliations, creeds or through a simple series of refusals. For while we may wish to do and side with what is right, our misinterpretation and misjudgments too easily blind us in recognizing what in fact the right or best reactions may always be. And our isolatory side taking is unavoidably degradating and alienating to the outsiders we are to be welcoming in.
I’m beginning to wonder if following Christ requires more than agreeing with Him. I’m wondering if following requires of us a sort of humble political and ideological homelessness; willingly making a place where there is none; outside of the arrogant philosophies of superiority and the hierarchical ordering of operations that much of the political and religious club require for membership. A bold undertaking requiring great courage and the greatest of humility. Making ourselves as nothing.