by John Pavlovitz
Jesus told his disciples a story about sheep and shepherds; the sheep know the shepherd’s voice and He referred to himself as the gate through which the sheep enter.
After I first went into ministry, I was pressed with deep theological questions that I was not supposed to ask publicly. I had talked to many people about their stories and experiences that did not agree with what the church I worked for believed at the time. I found that being able to listen and care, especially with marginalized people, is a tremendous gift.
We all have an internal image of God that seems to resemble us and agree with our beliefs. It is formed by our upbringing, our families, our community and our experiences. But this is an incomplete image because it is personalized to us. It is the same with the reading of scriptures; we each interpret it according to our beliefs and experiences. When we get into community, we have to try to merge our individual beliefs and interpretations of scripture so that we agree on what we believe and stand behind. The joined faith usually does not fit exactly the beliefs of all of the members, but it pushes them to conform so that the community can grow and strengthen. It also pushes us to certain “acceptable” views of God and Jesus.
Can the shepherd Jesus co-exist with the activist Jesus? Can the Jesus who tolerated shame and humiliation co-exist with the one who overturned tables and whipped people in the temple? Can our communities become as diverse as the Jesus in the Scriptures? Can our “activism” reflect more of the “complete Jesus” that we are supposed to be following?