In Luke 3:1-3, we learn of a time when the word of God came to a nobody…a locust-eating, camel-hair-wearing hermit in the middle of nowhere.
The word was “Repent.” But repent from what?
…from idolatrous religion that centered performance and piety over love?
…from ethnocentrism that elevated some at the expense of others?
And why repent?
Was it because they had generated systems of oppression that diminished the image of God in humanity, prematurely extinguished far too many, and tarnished God’s fame in creation?
When John received the word he offered it to others. There was power in this invitation to repent. People were hungry to redirect the course of their lives. They were inspired when John spoke truth to power and change to society. They were fascinated with his refrain from building platform and choice to prepare the way for a better way.
His message was contagious, convicting, invitational and transformational. It grew hope within the marginalized and threatened the power-brokers.
He knew that this message would cost him his life, yet he proclaimed it with every ounce of energy he had.
What is it that causes a leader to live and narrate a disruptive message of hope when to do so guarantees death?
In Luke 3:21-22, we learn of the baptism of Jesus by John. As Luke tells the story, in the moment of baptism, the heavens were severed guaranteeing a new reality of access to the Divine by humanity. And a voice from the heavens declared Jesus as beloved.
Jesus was deemed beloved before he ever did anything. This means that he didn’t have to spend his life working his way to beloved…he was already there. Rather than wasting his life trying to seduce the attention and affection of the Creator, Jesus lived his life in response to that love. So confident was he of God’s love for him that he couldn’t help himself from living costly, creative love in response to it.
It seems as though Jesus lived and loved like he believed that he was beloved and that everyone else was too.
In Mark 1, we learn of the Spirit and her leading of Jesus into the wilderness. Desolation was the place of his transformation. It was the location where Jesus began to learn what it meant to live as the beloved. It’s where he discovered that the beloved live fueled by the Spirit with ever a growing fluency in her voice.
In Luke 4, we learn that the Spirit compelled Jesus toward home and to his community of origin. Upon arriving in Nazareth, he entered the synagogue, was handed the Isaiah scroll, and was invited to teach. Unraveling the ancient hides, Jesus read and then declared himself the embodiment of messianic prophecy.
His community of origin was elated! They were ready to worship him.
As their murmurs increased in fervor Jesus re-rolled the scrolls, sat down, and continued to teach. When he did so, he told two stories of God’s restorative reach extending beyond their bloodline.
His community of origin was outraged! They were ready to kill him.
Returning to Mark 1, we learn that Jesus then formed a beloved community comprised of brothers, friends, and enemies. He lived them into an understanding of their belovedness. The more they discovered their belovedness, the more they participated in the restorative revolution of Jesus. Every time that popularity surged, the Spirit provoked them on…usually to the places that were thought to be beyond the reach of God’s restorative wingspan.
When the beloved hear the promptings of the Spirit, we grow with wisdom and diminish in our regard for image management. We recognize that “our needs are met through an unconditional attachment to an Other, in which we find our identity, belonging and affection.” (Walker, 300)
So perhaps it is the certainty of our belovedness that would cause a leader to live and narrate a disruptive message of hope when to do so would be costly.