The price of living up to what you believe in

As we prepare to observe Good Friday and celebrate Easter, it might be appropriate to reflect on the price of speaking the truth.

Mar 18, 2016

By Anil Netto
As we prepare to observe Good Friday and celebrate Easter, it might be appropriate to reflect on the price of speaking the truth.

It would be easy to say that Jesus was following his Father’s will by giving up his life on the cross.

Yet, He also lived for something higher, a vision of what this world could be. He wanted us to live life to the full. His entire ministry was devoted to helping us live to our full potential. Breaking down the barriers that divide us. Removing the chains of sin and oppression that prevent us from realising our true freedom as children of God.

However, in the course of his ministry, He came up against a system of domination that was oppressing the people.

Political power — the might of the Roman Empire — was exercised at the local level via Roman governors who then collaborated with the local political and religious elite to rule the vast Empire.

In Judea, the Roman governor ruled the land with the collaboration of the religious leaders of the temple and local leaders, more like Roman puppets. This was a cocktail of imperial Roman control, supported by religious elites and local leaders. They did not look kindly on local ‘messiahs.’ Yet, along came Jesus, shaking things up.

The temple was at the heart of this economically exploitative, dominant system at the local level, where taxes and funds were extracted from the people, including pilgrims.

Seen in this light, Jesus’ reference to it in Luke 19, as a den of thieves or robbers makes sense.

45 Then he went into the Temple and began driving out those who were busy trading, saying to them, 46 “According to scripture, my house shall be a house of prayer but you have turned it into a bandits’ den.” An institution dedicated to the worship of the Lord had been horribly compromised. This echoes what was said in

Jeremiah 7:
11 Do you look on this Temple that bears my name as a den of bandits? I, at any rate, can see straight, Yahweh declares.

And in Hosea 12:
8 Merchants use fraudulent scales. To defraud is his delight.

9 ‘How rich I have become!’ says Ephraim, ‘I have made a fortune.’ But of all his gains, he will keep nothing because of the sin of which he is guilty.

In a sense, Jesus’ action in driving away the money-changers from the temple is startling. This was so uncharacteristic of Him; so far removed from the image of Him as a non-violent, gentle shepherd, full of love, compassion and forgiveness. To an outsider, it looks as if Jesus just ‘snapped’ and went berserk.

But Jesus’ anger was rooted in love and compassion for the people. He was indeed raving mad — mad that this exploitation, this oppression of the people, this profiteering at the expense of the people, was being done in the name of God, in a religious temple that was supposed to give glory to God As we should know from Jesus, the Father has little time for hypocrites. Thus, Jesus’ chasing of the money-changers goes far deeper. His actions seem entirely in keeping with the spirit of Amos 5.

21 I hate, I scorn your festivals, I take no pleasure in your solemn assemblies. 22 When you bring me burnt offerings ,,, your oblations, I do not accept them and I do not look at your communion sacrifices of fat cattle. 23 Spare me the din of your chanting, let me hear none of your strumming on lyres, 24 but let justice flow like water, and uprightness like a never-failing stream!

It is not that God dislikes worship and sacrifice. But true worship has to be true and genuine, rooted in justice, untainted by oppression and hypocrisy. Listen to Isaiah 56:

7 these I shall lead to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples. So Jesus stood for something larger than life.

At first, he broke down barriers between Jews and foreigners, clean and unclean, sinner and saint. These he brought to the table for supper, long before ‘inclusiveness’ was a buzzword.

He preached love and compassion to the marginalised.

But when the situation required it, he could not remain silent. He decided to confront and act inside an institution that had become so corrupt and compromised but was still a magnet, an icon of the prevailing system of domination and oppression of ordinary people.

From that moment, His fate was sealed. I think Jesus accepted that His path to establish God’s kingdom of justice and love would inevitably lead him on a collision course with the ruthless powers of this world, steeped in injustice, corruption, and violence. Violence not only towards people but, nowadays, increasingly against the environment.

Jesus could have backed off and continued a safer mode of ministry. But He didn’t. He knew the consequences of pursuing His course of action in evicting the money-changers in full view of temple guards and Roman spies.

In that sense, He accepted his death on the cross, a punishment reserved for rebels, when He didn’t back off from God’s plan of establishing the kingdom, knowing full well that it would result in His death. He stayed the course because of His love for the people and His Father.

That love was, literally, an undying love. Thus did His death on the cross and His triumph over death inspire His followers to carry on His mission, empowered by his Spirit.

Today, the system of domination, the corruption of institutions, economic exploitation and a culture of violence is very much alive in our world. We don’t have to look far.

This is not God’s will. He abhors injustice, violence and sin. It was what He sent Jesus into the world for.

Now, we have been tasked with a mission of building the kingdom of love, justice and compassion. In these dark times, we need to draw much courage, strength and inspiration from the One who showed us the way.

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