Sometimes people come to me and say, “[Agent X] you come on so strong, so confrontational. Couldn’t you dial it down a bit? Don’t you think you could get better results with the carrot rather than the stick?”
(Okay. It’s not an exact quote. They don’t call me “Agent X” to my face generally…. But I digress…. anyway…)
And I say to them:
I just try to be like Jesus. And besides, I started all submissive, and that just got me the run-around, so then I started following Jesus, and he picks a fight.
No. Really. I did start off all submissive and gentle. I remember how I constantly requested a chance to chaperone, to volunteer and play host to the homeless at the “church” I was attending. Shoot. Fully half the reason I joined that “church” was because they had a notable history of hosting the homeless on cold nights. (The other half being they claimed to be Jesus-people.) And yet somehow I managed to be relegated to the end of the list of volunteers, and I never understood why.
I mean, I was showing up and spending T-I-M-E with the homeless there for hours on end 3-5 days a week! I was there day and night. Hardly a member in the history of that “church” ever showed more enthusiasm for being there than me.
Even the night Mrs. Agent X made arrangements to get volunteers together so we could host BEFORE asking permission from the leadership, she was turned down. I couldn’t believe my ears! Yeah, she did all the leg work herself so as not to burden anyone else. So I called and spoke to the head executive guy to ask him – WHY NOT? And before I got off the phone with him, he gave me lame reasons that didn’t fly.
First he said, “We don’t have any volunteers.”
Really??? Actually, you do. Mrs. Agent X put all that together before she asked permission. This was a respectful challenge, but it was a challenge all the same. Of course such a challenge, despite my “tone”, by itself carries the unspoken question whether he was stupid or dishonest. How did he not know my wife had arranged for volunteers or that I was calling as one myself?
So he hem-hawed on that for a minute, but then in frustration he actually told me, “It’s a leadership decision, [Agent X], and you will just have to accept it.”
Oh… so you don’t even care whether you come off as stupid or dishonest with me. I am so far beneath your contempt that you will just move to being obstinate? Wow!
After that I sought to go through proper channels and visited with the board of directors and all, but every step of the way there was no compromise, no yield to reason, and the flock was scattered to the night (except when leadership arbitrarily chose otherwise (and certainly did not involve me)).
So, let’s just say the carrot didn’t work.
But still, my confrontational tone makes some chafe. But we decided (yes, “we”) to go prophetic. And we watch Jesus move from confrontation to confrontation. You can’t just listen to most modern sermons or watch most modern movies about him to get this. But if you actually read the gospels, you find Jesus in confrontation all over the place, sometimes even with his own disciples but definitely with Pharisees and the establishment.
Seriously. Check it out:
Heal a man on the Sabbath? Yup!
(Oh… it’s on!)
Forgive a man of his sins? Yup! He knows what those scribes are thinking in their hearts: Who does this man think he is that he can forgive sins?
Encounter a demon?
Even Legions of them beg mercy!
And when Jesus finally shows up at the temple, the premier place of worship for Jews the world over, what does he do? He flips the tables, scatters the money all over the place, even drives people out with a whip! And then a few days later, he preaches sermons that the establishment folk recognize as being “against” them… but they fear the mobs, so he gets away with it another day.
Yeah… The fact is… they don’t crucify messiahs with carrots; they crucify messiahs with sticks! And Jesus pushed their buttons until they finally put this uppity peasant in his place: enthroned on a cross with a crown, a robe, and a sign saying he’s King!
The question isn’t whether I should come with stick or carrot. The question is whether I have the gumption to REALLY follow Jesus ALL THE WAY. God’s people have been obstinate to him for a very long time. God is used to it; I am the one who is new to the process.
But, in case you are put off too, look whose company you stand with in the gospels.
And I gotta say, when it gets less than 40 degrees outside and the “church” is turning a blind eye to the homeless, it’s time to turn up the heat.