"In the Way of Jesus"
We exist to equip and elevate youth leaders in the way of Jesus from historically under-resourced communities. We talk often about the importance of equipping and elevating youth leaders. We also talk about why we pursue this work in historically under-resourced communities. Simply put - those closest to the problem are closest to the solution but further from the resources and power to do something about it. We’re here to give them resources (equip) and power (elevate) to transform the world.
But what does Jesus have to do with it? Why do we equip & elevate in the way of Jesus?
Whether you follow Jesus or not - whether you identify as a Christian, or not - we all must reckon with this fact: No one has marked our world quite like Jesus of Nazareth (In fact, it’s not even close). Historian Tom Holland (no, not Spider Man, the other Tom Holland) in his book Dominion argues that the life, death, teachings and followers of Jesus, “remade the world.” He argues “To live in the western world is to live in a society still utterly saturated by Christian concepts and conceptions… So profound has been the impact of Christianity on the developments of western civilization that it has come to be hidden from view.” If you and I were to wake up tomorrow and find ourselves in a world without the marks of Jesus and his ministry, we would feel as though we had landed on another planet. It would be unrecognizable.
John Ortberg said, “The record of his [Jesus] life and teaching, the Gospels, have impacted the world so much that they have been translated into 2,527 languages. The second-most-translated book, Don Quixote, has been translated into about 60 languages.”
Whether you follow him or not, you cannot deny his impact. No one has marked our world quite like Christ and His followers. Jesus was a leader whose vision for renewal and transformation didn’t die with him at calvary. (An event that Holland identifies as a historical fact) Instead it was planted deep in the earth, and began to spring forth in His resurrection. His vision of love, beauty, justice and righteousness has spread like wildflowers ever since.
But is the impact of Jesus on the earth all beauty and kindness? Are there no weeds among the wildflowers? There most certainly are. The harm done by those wearing a cross around their neck, or cross-painted shield on their arm, has impacted untold millions. The pain caused by organized religion is real, and should not be minimized. It is good and right that we would critique institutions that have caused harm in Jesus' name. But have you ever stopped to ask, why are we justified in critiquing these institutions in the first place? I think the only reason we critique the failings of religious institutions is because we have already been caught up in Christ’s vision of justice. In essence, we measure the goodness of religious institutions by placing them on the scales of justice that have been given to us by Jesus. In that sense, those who have caused the greatest harm in our world, religious or not, have done so not because they were too close to Jesus, but because they were too far from Him.
We equip and elevate youth leaders in the way of Jesus because our vision for justice and flourishing was given to us by Jesus. Here’s what I mean by that vision: We believe every human being is infinitely valuable, and brimming with God-given potential, because every person has been made in God’s image. Therefore, every person is worth the investment of our time, our love, and our sacrifice. No investment is wasted. Period. The ancient world that Jesus entered into was marked by heartbreaking suffering and injustice. The idea of universal human value couldn’t have been more foreign to the Greeks and Romans. Our eyes are on the margins of society because Christ’s eyes were there first. Our hands are offered in service to those who have little institutional power, because Christ’s hands were there first. Our backs are made straight to stand courageously for our neighbors, because Christ has already shown us how.
If we are going to equip and elevate youth leaders to transform the world according to a moral vision of justice, and goodness, we would do well to consider who gave us that vision to begin with. Let’s consider how He led. Let’s consider the man who set our hearts on fire to begin with. And let’s learn to follow in his ways.
So how did Jesus lead? What is the way of Jesus? That’s the topic for our next blog.