You may be a Christian, but are you willing to be crazy for Christ?
In the Gospel of Mark, there’s no real information about Jesus’ birth or early life. Instead, we begin with a prophet’s declarations about who Jesus is. Jesus then is baptized, the Spirit falls upon him, and “immediately”—a word used regularly in Mark—we enter a cycle of preaching and healing that rapidly creates a following among astonished Jews. They press in, wanting their share of this powerful, loving grace handed out so freely.
Jesus seems completely immersed in his ministry. There’s no evidence of detailed planning, a formal schedule, or even time for regular meals. Everything is just happening; energy and excitement rule the day, and Jesus, the Son of God, follows the Father’s will perfectly.
He is, of course, the perfect model for how to respond to the Father, showing us how to love God and our neighbors with passionate energy. Those of you who are Christians likely remember being filled with a similar excitement when you first understood Jesus to be your Lord and Savior.
Do you remember? Did anything else seem to matter? Did anything else take precedence, even food, family, or work? If you really experienced conversion, I suspect you’re remembering an all-consuming experience, the fire of Christianity burning bright in you.
It’s hard to sustain, I know. Life starts to get in the way. In fact, life can pound away at you like a relentless surf, and over time, the flame can seem to cool. Satan could not overcome Jesus, but Satan still wants to overcome us, if only to slow us down, to delay his inevitable destruction.
To do that, he works through people to use some of the same techniques we see at work in today’s text. The first is to make the Christian message seem out-of-step with whatever “normal” is supposed to be. Essentially, he wants observers of a passionate Christian to say what the observers of Christ said: “He is out of his mind.”
You can hear Satan whisper: “Yes, great things are happening. Yes, there’s excitement in the air. Yes, lives are being changed. But careful—the whole thing sounds crazy. Better stay away from crazy.”
But here’s the problem when we as Christians succumb, when we fade back into the background out of fear of being called crazy. We fail to be the followers Christ sought.
Christianity is not supposed to look normal. It is countercultural. We declare the world is capable of being something it currently is not.
We declare that a man died on a cross nearly 2,000 years ago and then walked out of his tomb, remade and eternally alive, so that what the world considers normal—suffering, sickness, cruelty, violence, death—could be turned upside down.
I’m sorry, but if you think being Christian somehow means you’re normal, then you’ve never understood Christ’s work. When you accepted your baptism, you did a very odd thing in the eyes of the world, so odd that people might consider you dangerous if you really begin to live your faith.
And if you really try to live it, Satan may even go so far as to twist what is evil and what is good, in the hope that people may reject your Christian behavior as evil. It’s happening all over the world right now. People in the Middle East, in huge portions of Asia, in Africa, in Europe and in many other places are labeled a threat to “normal” society for preaching the crazy idea that Christ is remaking this world and will remake it in full one day.
Often, they lose their jobs or their status in society. Sometimes they lose their lives, joining the ranks of the martyrs, the people who die rather than allow their beliefs to be co-opted.
It’s going to happen here, if the divide between secular values and Christian values continues to grow. (I’m careful to say “if.” This nation has experienced Great Awakenings before, and can do so again.) Already, when Christians say the Bible clearly defines what is and is not sin, and try to live accordingly, we are called “intolerant,” code language designed to set us apart from “normal” society.
I am concerned for those who attack Christianity as evil. Christians have debated for years precisely what it means to commit the unforgivable sin, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. But certainly, it has something to do with describing the presence of God as evil, and also certainly, the presence of God is found in the church, among Christ’s followers today.
Mostly, though, I look to this elaborate text for inspiration. Oh, to feel such excitement in every moment of ministry—to see people so stirred up for healing and words of grace that meals must be foregone and schedules tossed out as the crowds press in.
Remember, it is in such raucous, upside-down moments that Jesus finds the people he calls his brothers and sisters.