Summary of Phase Two (part 2)
Becoming a lowlife
Jen opens this section describing the unusual reaction of the disciples after being taught by Jesus at the Last Supper: “a dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest” (Luke 22:24). Jesus answered by referring to the rulers of that time, those consumed with status and power and who used the average people as a means of establishing themselves.
Jen quotes Richard Rohr next in his book Simplicity, saying:
Jesus’ harshest words are aimed at hypocrites, and the second harshest at the people who are primarily concerned with possessions. He says that power, prestige, and possessions are the three things that prevent us from recognizing and receiving the reign of God…The only ones who can accept the proclamation of the reign are those who have nothing to protect,, not their own self-image or their reputation, their possessions, their theology, their principles, or their certitudes. And these are called “the poor,” anawim in Hebrew.
“Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20).
Jen goes on to describe the often painful, revolutionary journey of choosing to descend rather than ascend. She says society’s natural bend is to go for more, for the next level, for the next run, the next promotion or upgrade – the pursuit of ascent. The opposite, as Jesus lays out and exemplifies, is to descend, to lay down rights, possessions, status, agendas.
When Jesus told us “to take the lowest place” (Luke 14:10), it was more than just a strategy for social justice. It was even more than wooing us to the bottom for communion, since that is always where He is found. The path of descent becomes our own liberation. We are freed from the exhausting stance of defense. We are no longer compelled to be right and are thus relieved from the burden of maintaining some reputation. We are released from the idols of greed, control, and status. The pressure to protect the house of cards is alleviated when we take the lowest place.
“Get off our high horse” – Jesus
Shane Claiborne writes:
Jesus did not seek out the rich and powerful in order to trickle down his kingdom. Rather, he joined those at the bottom, the outcasts and undesireables, and everyone was attracted to his love for people on the margins … The he invited everyone into a journey of downward mobility to become the least.
Jen comments in this section about how the church is growing in areas where Jesus is needed – needed for more than job promotions and entertainment and a better house. Instead, in those areas, people are running to Jesus out of love for him, for hope and promise.
“The higher we are, the harder it is to adopt the heart of Christ,” says Jen.
Nineteenth-century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote, in response to the question of how one might resist ascending the proverbial ladder:
Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you?
As Jen goes on to point out, those on the outside, the outcasts, and the “losers” of society who understood the message of Jesus – not the upstanding and well-versed in religion. In fact, “we almost have to be marginalized to become capable of hearing the gospel,” writes Jen.
“And the one who rules [should be] like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?” (Luke 22:26-27)
From a human stand-point, typically the one who is being served is greater, the one who is sitting at the table. Yet, Jesus insists “but I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).
Is this not why the gospel is such good news for the broken? Jesus redefined the nature of greatness, which has always rung hollow for the least and last. He took its connotation away from power and possessions and bestowed it on the humility of the servant. Jen Hatmaker
In closing, Jen offers these words on what it means to be great. They are so meaningful and challenging that I can’t summarize and still keep the message in tact. And so, I’ll include the entire ending section here:
“So be it in my life, and so be it in the church. May intentional servanthood be the basis of all mission, all benevolence, all evangelism, all sacrifice. I dream of a church that is once again called great, even by our skeptics, because our works of mercy cannot be denied. I want no part in a movement that is deemed great because we’ve adopted some exceptional qualities admired by the top.
I don’t want to be known for a great band.
I don’t want to be admired for a great campus.
I don’t want to be recognized for a great marketing campaign.
I don’t want to be praised for great programming.
I don’t want to be applauded for great theology and scholarship.
I want the church to be great because we fed hungry mommas and their babies. I’d like to be great because we battled poverty with not just our money but our hands and hearts. I desire greatness that comes from seeking not only mercy but justice for those caught in a system with trapdoors. I hope to be part of a great movement of the Holy Spirit, who inject supernatural wind and fire into His mission. My version of great will come when others are scratching their heads and saying, ‘Wow, you really live a different life.'”
I covered the content of Phase Two in two separate posts, rather than just one. You can find part 1 of Phase Two here.