How do we worship this King?
The King came riding in on a donkey to praises and adoration. The Messiah was finally proclaimed! His Kingdom would be no ordinary Kingdom. In His Kingdom, the first would be last. The greatest would be the servant of all. The least deserving would receive as much as the most deserving. The Door was open to anyone who would come, from the most righteous to the least, those with plenty of money and those with none, those who gathered great personal acclaim those who went unnoticed and unadmired, those with appropriate attire and those without. The mountains would be brought low and the valleys would be filled up.
And of course we know that this Kingdom was a threat to anyone who had stakes in this upside down world – those with power, status, rights, you know – the winners of this world. But how much do we who wave palm branches still cling to this upside down world that still believes in the survival of the fittest and power to the strong?
This week, CNN reported that Afghanistan has recently approved a version of a law that allows marital rape and reinforces fundamentalist Islamic ideas such as not allowing a woman to drive, to go out alone, or to be educated without her husband’s permission. It is a massive human rights violation. At a women’s conference in Greece a few years back I listened to Afghan women tell of the impact of this type of thinking on women’s lives. One woman told of someone who was locked in her home by her husband for her entire life. She was not even allowed to go out to family weddings, which was her one source of socialization. And too often, a woman’s body exists only for her husband’s use. He need have no real regard for her feelings or needs. There need be no true empathy for another human being. How is a follower of Jesus to respond?
This represents real human suffering. I do believe that as followers of Jesus we should know intrinsically that we are indeed our sisters’ keeper. And His teachings on neighbor love has moved the definition of that obligation far beyond any convenient boundary. But we as Christians will have little effect on such horrific laws and little right to criticize another culture if we do not look at the log in our own eyes. A deep reflection is needed on the message that is being sent out from too many pulpits and other modes of preaching scripture that support limiting a woman’s use of her gifts in the church, and that shuts out her voice both in leadership and theological reflection. We need to see that the message that is being preached is also very misogynistic. At the very least we need to see that western Christianity sends a very mixed message that seems to miss Jesus.
His Kingdom is so radically different that we have thrust it into the future and closed our eyes. Though I think I would have been one who waved palm branches and shouted praises at the humble King on the donkey, I know that the cost of following this King would have me calling for His crucifixion just days later. Following Jesus is hard. But we will not bring forth a Kingdom that is so radically other than anything in this world if we do not recognize injustice and address it, beginning in our own hearts. We cannot worship if we do not love.