One of my favorite authors, speakers, philosophers is Peter Rollins. Pete is a man from across the pond. He voice is riddled with Irish dialect, so much at times that you miss every fifth word. Pete also happens to be one of those people that causes me to doubt, search, read and study more than anyone. If you’ve never read any of Pete’s work (come to think of it, I hope he doesn’t mind me calling him Pete), you should first pick up a small think book called, The Orthodox Heretic: And Other Impossible Tales. It is a book comprised of parables, thankfully followed by Pete’s explanation of each. Some of the stories will make you laugh, some cry. Others will cause you to rethink, to doubt, and might just piss you off. I recommended this very book to my best friend Sheldon (he’s a gardening genius), and he in turn recommended it to a friend of his who, after reading a beautifully written parable about Judas, stated that it was heresy. Wowza! I guess it falls in line with the title then.
I would like to share with you a parable of Pete’s about a Landlord. Please note that this is a re-telling and I may paraphrase a touch.
There was a sudden knock in the late hours of the night on a Pastors front door. The knocking was rapid and booming. As the pastor opened the door she saw a rather large fellow standing in her doorway with one hand clinching the top frame while the other was acting as a make-shift stand as if the man was about to fall face forward out of exhaustion. She calmed the man down and asked what was wrong. The plump fellow said, “There is a woman who is about to be thrown out of her home tomorrow. She is a mother of 4 children, all of which are young. Her husband was laid off months ago and now can’t work because of a debilitating illness. She has been scraping together money somehow each month but it’s all gone. They have nothing. It’s the middle of winter. It’s freezing and they will soon be out on the streets if the landlord doesn’t get his money. Can you help?”
Without hesitation, the Pastor replied, “Of course we will help! The church will see to it that her rent is paid and they are all taken care of. But first can I ask you how you know them?”
The man catches his breath to spit out the words, “Oh well, I’m the landlord.”
This is us… isn’t it. We are the “Landlord” of the parable. Christianity has shifted this mindset in which revelation becomes about us hearing something from God but we actually never really do it. For many christians today, we know the truth of the faith but we don’t actually heed it.
I began thinking about this because my good friend Jon Miller told me today that he wanted to change the way he has been living to better display the Gospel. I jokingly replied “you and me both”. His response got me thinking. He said, “We should change that.”
Jon gets it. He isn’t the landlord banging on the door asking to be given money. He stopped running a long time ago. This is the sign of a heart moving out of this Ironic way of life into living out The Way.
In the first century, the movement happening that we know as Christianity was revolutionizing the world. People who once had no voice were being heard. People who didn’t have food to eat were being fed. The oppressed were being raised up. Things were changing. The first century followers of Christ changed the world by living out the Gospel.
The reason why the parable above is so brutal to me is because that is me. Far too often in my life, I am the landlord. I buy clothes at cheap prices and yet they are made overworked/underpaid children. I buy crap I don’t need and listen of statistics of men, women and children dying from famine. I see the homeless sitting against the building downtown and I keep moving. I could go on.
I know what scripture teaches about the impoverished, the hungry, the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, the unloved. I’ve read stories of how Jesus lived selflessly and loved without reservation. Yet I choose to live Ironically.
The words of Christ I can hear in my head and yet I choose to ask the Pastor for money.
Think about it. We spend more time debating Gay Rights and the “homosexual agenda” than we do building relationships founded on love with the LGBT community.
We say we want to be Christ to our nation, we fight for our “rights” until we are exhausted when Jesus willingly gave up His.
We spend more time complaining about people on welfare than we do actually loving them in a practical way to help get them on their feet.
We say we believe and follow Jesus but until we actually live like it, should we even mention it?
I’m thinking that if I were atheist and I saw a Christian living the way I do, knowing all I know about the life of Jesus, I’m not sure I would want to be associate with Christians either. Too harsh? Probably… but that’s because most christians only like honesty that comes in smaller pills.
Today, if you are running to the pastors door, may you stop and turn around.
May your heart begin to beat in rhythm with the heartbeat of the Divine.
May the way you live your life be the greatest display of the Gospel.
We can have all the worn out Bibles in the world, but if we aren’t living what we learn, they’re just a crappy paper weight.
Grace and Peace