Was Jesus a Subversive?

In light of the recent affirmation and recanting of that affirmation of LGBTQ and gay marriage by prolific theologian and “The Message” writer Eugene Peterson, I have read many tweets, Facebook posts, online articles, blog posts, and anything in between about Peterson and his statements.

I have read things on both sides of the issue, from conservative Christians, liberal Christians, LGBTQ affirmers, LGBTQ condemners, and anything in between about Peterson and his statements.

Some of the comments are valid. Some…not so much.

One of the less valid comments I’ve read speak of Jesus being a “subversive.” This in response to Peterson’s affirmation, and again when he retracted. Of course, the first time was in praise of Peterson’s boldness in affirming LGBTQ and gay marriage. The second time in disappointment that Peterson wasn’t as “subversive” as Jesus.

I believe words are important. And that’s why it is important to understand that Jesus was NOT subversive.

Subvert: verb, To undermine the power or authority of a person or system. 

When Christians claim that Jesus was a subversive, they miss a very important point: Jesus didn’t come to subvert; Jesus came to correct our trajectory.

As a Christian, I believe and live with God as my power and authority. God’s power and authority is unchanging. I believe that Jesus is God in human form, and by his own admission, “All authority has been given to me by the Father.” Jesus didn’t have to subvert anything. Jesus IS the power and authority.

What Jesus did when He spoke against the religious leaders in and around Jerusalem was to correct. He never acknowledged that the scribes and Pharisees had any authority that wasn’t given to them by the Father. Even when Jesus faced crucifixion at the hands of Pontius Pilate, Jesus pointed out to him that he had no authority over His life that the Father hadn’t given him.

God is the authority. Jesus didn’t need to subvert that because Jesus was (and is) the authority and the power.

It may sound like I’m splitting hairs, but I see too many Christians talk about rising up against the “power and authority” of the church universal. The thing is, even if the church universal is doing wrong things, or is not doing the right things they are called by Christ to do, rising up against them, “subverting” them, is useless and perhaps a bit misguided and prideful.

Before you think about subverting the church, and definitely before you call Jesus a “subversive,” think about Who is the power and authority in your Christian life. If it is a church, a pastor, an author, or anyone else than Jesus Christ, some prayerful reflection might be necessary. 

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