During Jesus' time, the system exploited the most vulnerable and reinforced a narrative that dehumanized those on the margins. Armed forces kept the "peace" and insured compliance. When necessary, powerful enemies conspired together to bring violent retribution on anyone who threatened the status quo.
Jesus disrupted this Evil Regime by refusing to be defined by Roman Rule or the so-called Pax Romana. Jesus offered coins to Rome, but refused to offer his spirit, body, mind, and soul to the Empire. Jesus overturned tables and wielded a whip to remove corrupt moneychangers from the temple courts. Without obtaining necessary permits, Jesus led a disruptive and triumphal march through the streets of Jerusalem as the crowds shouted their support.
Instead of passively existing in evil times, Jesus proactively offered to liberate people from the bonds of oppression and the lies of the Empire by inviting all to a new identity rooted in grace, love, hope, and justice.
We live in a nation that is programmed to dehumanize the people of color, poor people, women, and the LGBTQ community. For 400 years, the regime has often used the sword to maintain this dehumanizing system marked by slavery, lynching, incarceration, and a persistent threat of violent reprisal.
If Jesus got angry and participated in disruption, then we must not vilify the angry and pained voices of today. We must not pretend that we are not experiencing pain and anger when so many lives are lost, including the tragic killing of five officers in Dallas, and the lives of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson, Sam DuBose, John Crawford III, and a list that could seemingly go on forever.
Violence runs amuck when the value and sanctity of human life erodes. Our race-based political and economic regime in America has systematically dehumanized African Americans for four centuries. Now our sober call is to channel our anger and pain and grief into a new vision that values the life and worth of those who have been told they don't count for generations.
Given the hour, now is the time for followers of Jesus to forego our preoccupation with respectability. We must be willing to be with and stand with those who are closest to the pain, and not worry about being misunderstood or judged by those who have the luxury to insulate themselves from the dehumanizing system.
Re-read the Gospels. Jesus was never preoccupied with respectability, and was never afraid of being misunderstood. His path of disruption and commitment to hope and healing meant that people called Jesus a friend of Tax Collectors and Sinners. Now is the time to be with those the Empire deems as the disrespectable, the disinherited, & the dehumanized, for the sake of Jesus and the sake of humanity.