"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15
Jesus, the community organizer
I was having a conversation with my mother in law the other night. She had mentioned that she got into a conversation with someone and community organizing came up. To be clear, this someone is, someone who does not believe in the Lord, and has a liberal social agenda. The words “Jesus was a community organizer” were spoken. Interesting? I could sense in my mother in law’s voice that there was a sense of frustration. What do you say to something like that? If I were to hear something along those lines my natural response would be one of disgust. This statement is either one of complete ignorance or just an intentional dig at Christians and the politics of today. I could tell from my mother in laws reaction from telling me the story that she was obviously frustrated by the statement. .
We heard a lot of theories supposing Jesus was a community organizer during the presidential election in 2008. But what does it mean? One blogger put it like this “Jesus worked for the ordinary folks, who were disregarded by their leaders. He lived their lives and went through their hardships, organizing their communities towards hope”. Various Bible verses are thrown around. They typically center on the beatitudes. Those who have made these statements (written or otherwise) have not provided any biblical documentation that Jesus was a community organizer. Rather, those who would paint the Christ as a simple community organizer will refer you to snippets of the gospel that are taken out of context and with little biblical understanding on their part. The irony… the vast majority of those that would make such a statement do not believe in God, or the deity of Jesus. In that context, their insistence that “Jesus was a (just) community organizer” is an intentional degradation of the deity of Christ, and an attempt to belittle you for believing that the Son of God was nothing more than a community organizer.
First, I would like to offer this… The premise of this statement is incorrect. Jesus is not simply a community organizer; he is the Son of God. He delivered us from our sins by bearing our punishment. Thus He is a savior not a community organizer.
So, let’s compare the job description of a community organizer to the historical events Jesus’ ministry. So that we can make a valid comparison, first, let’s take a look at a typical community organizer’s job description, and compare it to the events of the Gospel. Of course, job descriptions will vary from location to location – This particular list of responsibilities came from HERE.
– Function well as part of a team.
Jesus did not function as part of the team… He was the leader of the team. In a modern context the ability to function well within a team means harmony, unity, not upsetting the apple cart, or any number of things that would upset the team dynamic. Jesus set the dynamic. This qualification would have fit more with the disciples…NOT with Jesus.
– Identify and partner with local groups.
Jesus did identify with local groups. This is evident in the way he was able to modify his teaching’s. A great example of how He would identify with local groups would be to examine His parables. His parables were often delivered in a context that the group He happened to be talking to (case and point speaking to a Pharisee when delivering the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)). This would achieve maximum efficiency. The only partners Jesus had was God, and anyone who believed. Unfortunately, most of the local groups in His time did not.
– Develop and maintain communication with a broad coalition of grassroots groups.
There were a few grass root groups during the time of Christ. One of the more notable ones would be the Zealots. The Zealots were a group dedicated to the revolutionary, armed type of rebellion against the Romans. Many of the Zealots thought Jesus was going to be that leader. While Jesus was able to communicate with them, he never even really tried to build coalitions. Jesus presented a simply message that required no coalition. It was truth, and you either accepted it or didn’t. Scratch that, Jesus did create a coalition for one thing… His crucifixion (Mark 14:53; 15:1, John 11:48-50).
– Coordinate meetings and forums.
Jesus did have meetings and forums for instruction. Most of the time they were opportunities that presented themselves and Jesus never let an opportunity to teach pass Him by. Some examples of this would include the Sermon on the Mount, and Preaching to the Samaritan woman.
– Facilitate participation in a collective decision making process.
Jesus did not participate in a facilitating decision making process. Decisions that He made were not collective with the disciples. Jesus operated under one authority only, God. He did not solicit opinion from others as to what he should do or how he should do it. Jesus was led by the Spirit of God (Matthew 28:18-19).
What is the conclusion one can draw from all of this? While there are some aspects of the Christ’s time on earth that do mirror community organizing (meeting/forums) Jesus was not interested in anything other than the Kingdom of God and seeing people be a part of it, through salvation. Two points can be made here: 1. Jesus was a polarizing figure. More importantly, He knew it. Look at Matthew 10:21-22. Here He talks about the division in families because of Him. He talks on numerous occasions (John 15:18-25, Matthew 5:10-12) about how those that believe in Him will be hated in the world! This is not harmony, this is not worldly hope… This is sacrifice. 2. If Jesus was a community organizer He was one of the worst community organizers in the history of man. Look at this from one simple point; Jesus organized the community of Jerusalem so well, that they BEGGED Pilate to crucify him. Does that sound like success!? Not hardly.
The really odd thing about all of this is… Before He died, His followers believed He was a community organizer – The leader who was going to deliver them from the Roman Empire… the leader of the rebellion. The disciples believed this all the way to the point where He appeared to them after His crucifixion. Jesus was none of those things… (at least not yet)
I would like to return to the quote I found from a blogger, “Jesus worked for the ordinary folks, who were disregarded by their leaders. He lived their lives and went through their hardships, organizing their communities towards hope”. If we rewrite this quote based on truth it would look something like this:
Jesus died for all, in spite of their sin or their feelings towards Him (good or bad). He was disregarded by their leaders. By coming to earth He is able to understand everything that you have been through (Hebrews 2:5-18). While He preached a message of salvation and hope, He also preached a message of suffering.
So, if you hear someone say that Jesus was a community organizer, go ahead and tell them… “Okay, but He was terrible at it then because the community He was trying to organize killed Him.” Aren’t we all glad that Jesus was a terrible community organizer?