I wanted to do a post on what was normal and what is not normal. But here’s the problem – It wasn’t really a post about what was normal, but really a post about what I preferred and though should be normal.
The definition of normal is:
Adjective – “Conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.”
Noun – “the usual, average, or typical state or condition.”
the definition has nothing to do what is moral or right or just. Normal is what is expected because it has become habitual. There are many things in life that are “normal” but are really wrong, immoral, unjust, destructive, and deadly. But they are normal.
See, I was going to say that it is not normal to accommodate or offer words of support for racism or misogyny. I was going to make the argument that it is not normal to find solutions to conflict through violent means or words or attitudes. I was going to claim that it is not normal to follow narcissistic tendencies or leaders. I was going to say that it is not normal to exploit God’s creation for a profit. I was going to say that it is not normal to dehumanize someone because of their sexuality, nation of origin, language spoken, religious practice or belief. I was going to claim that it is not normal to ignore the plight of the poor and homeless. I was going to argue that it is not normal to believe that might makes right or that the strong survive or that the ends justify the means and still claim to be a follower of Jesus. I was going to say that it is not normal to weigh one’s opinion about anything higher than facts. I was going to claim that it is not normal to make one’s partisan loyalty as more important than any other identity they have. I was going to argue all of these things, but I can’t.
I can’t make any of these claims because when I look around, they fit the definition of normal – “usual, typical, or expected.” They are normal in our culture. They aren’t right. They aren’t moral. They aren’t just. But they are expected and usual unfortunately. And they’ve been normal for a really, really long time throughout human history. Many of these same things were normal in other cultures in other periods of times too – in Ancient civilizations recorded in Scripture – Rome, Egypt, Babylon, Persia. It’s been normal in other societies over the course of history, regardless of location on the planet. These are all pretty normal human experiences actually – If we are honest, we’ve come to expect that people and groups of people will be dehumanized, that there will be exploitation of people and planet, that greed will be rampant, that violence will be applied, that there will be destruction, that there will be hatred, etc. These are the normal of human existence.
So instead, I’ll just say that all these things are wrong. They are sinful. They are unjust.
And as long as they continue, we’ll continue to have some serious challenges in our country. The biggest challenge we face – the challenge we have faced since the founding of our nation – is trust. All of the things I listed are symptoms that we don’t trust one another. How does a society function, thrive, or even survive if there is a lack of trust? It can’t.
So what do we do? I’ve been thinking about this the last two weeks while I was on vacation. Not intense thinking. But more allowing my mind to drift and explore with no pressure to find an answer. Something to just contemplate unhindered by the pressures of work. And what I concluded was that Jesus didn’t fight against the established unjust and immoral systems that existed. He called them out for sure. He named them. But he didn’t fight against them. He didn’t fight them because to fight something means that it is a threat, that it is legitimate. No, instead, he just launched another option. He focused on building up the Kingdom of God. He didn’t choose between the Roman Empire and the Temple Authorities. That was just two sides of the same coin. Instead, he did something different. Something that wasn’t based off of either illegitimate power system. He implemented a new way – or maybe something so old that it seemed new. Something untried really. Something still untried as fully as it could be. It’s just sitting here waiting to be tried.
I wonder if Jesus talking about the Kingdom of God being like a mustard seed isn’t about the size of the kingdom and how it expands and grows, but instead about how the seed waits until it is in fertile ground before it becomes what it was always destined to be. The seed of the Kingdom is within us, just waiting for fertile ground. Waiting for us to add a bit of water of the Spirit.
The Kingdom is already here. It’s right in front of us. It’s all around us. It’s within us. And it waits patiently for us to stop fighting against illegitimate empires as if we have to destroy them, or use their violent means to defeat them. That doesn’t work. It never has. Rather, the Kingdom is within us, ready to sprout and grow, to just push the weeds of empire and injustice out of the way as if they are nothing, because that’s what they are. They only persist because we give them permission to persist as a society. Stop giving unjust systems permission to exist. Stop following the expected and usual ways of these systems. Stop being normal.
Jesus doesn’t want normal. Jesus wants Shalom. Jesus wants Imago Dei. Jesus wants justice. Jesus wants better than normal. And we are all invited to participate in this. What are you waiting for? Some kind of special invitation? Waiting for unjust systems to stop? Waiting for the perfect time? The seeds of the Kingdom are available and ready – right now. That’s all we need. Let’s start.