Outcast – The Flow

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One of the most heart-warming experiences for me when people get together and rally round a cause together. Remember?

Kenyans for Kenya that raised Ksh 656m

We are one during the Westgate attack; Rallying call to unite everyone in Kenya against the evil and terror

Kenyans on twitter #KOT raising Ksh 500,000 for Ngendo’s mum cancer treatment

The Beyond Zero campaign with the first Lady’s Marathon run, and the goal of maternal care in all the 47 counties.

This year we are keen on stepping out. We began by discussing what it means to step out in general, we then talked about stepping out in our relationships. Today we are talking about what it means to step out when we are among many people.

It is often exciting and heart warming when people get together and rally round a cause together. This is good and it often is a blessing for many. There is another side of being with the crowd. Its OK when the crowd is doing some things are adding value or building others or doing something that is immensely positive. But, what if I’m in the crowd and I don’t like it or I don’t agree with it? What if what I do with the crowd ends up hurting, destroying, demeaning or maiming someone else? What about those times that the crowd is clearly wrong but I am caught up in it? What if being with the crowd is actually bad for me?

The thing about being with the majority is that it is simply easier. It is effortless and seems to be trouble free. If I am with the crowd then it feels much ‘safer’ than being on my own.

Going with the flow is supposed to be trouble free. Why cause ripples and quarrels when you don’t need to; who wants to cause division especially when it seems like everyone is agreeable, or at least is willing to tolerate the issue? It also keeps you out of trouble with the people and with the establishment. It minimizes friction with others. It is so much easier to go with the flow than to go against it. Going against it makes me an outcast, one who isn’t welcome in the crowd.

The Easter story is the story of our faith. Today we celebrate the resurrection after the crucifixion. As Christian’s what we believe is hinged on the fact that our relationship with God as individuals and as a race is broken, and God was proactive to fix it by sending Jesus to come, live among us, die then resurrect. The Easter story is the culmination of the death and resurrection event.

I’d like us to reflect on this story because it has much to teach us about our lives to day, about going with the flow and about stepping beyond the crowd to make it count.

Background: Jesus had spent about 3 years with the disciples and come to the end of his time on earth. He predicted that he would be crucified. One of his 12 trusted disciples betrayed him. The rest of the 11 deserted him, when he was praying and when he went to face the authorities. The authorities came together to stand against Jesus.

The priests

The government through Pontius Pilate,

Herod the local King [who was much like a governor – with some power but not ultimate power]

All somehow colluded so that Jesus was tortured, and convicted to die in the most cruel way. We pick up the story from here Luke 23:32-43 

As I look at the story I see many instances that I can relate with when I think about going with the flow: 

Chief Priests and Theologians accused Jesus of blasphemy and wanted him dead v10. I can understand their issue because Jesus was a radical. He didn’t fit with what they were doing. The priests had a religious reputation and an occupation to keep – and Jesus was messing with this. If I was a priest at the time I would have had issues with Jesus.

Herod and the soldiers mocked Jesus v. 11 They probably lived very boring lives. Jesus came along and claimed to be the Son of God and this was probably a very amusing thing to them. In addition to this Herod would have wanted to maintain his popularity with the crowds even though he was somewhat curious about this man Jesus.

Pilate had wanted to release Jesus. He had his bureaucratic power to protect – he was an appointee of Caesar and would need to please both the crowds and Caesar to keep his job. Perhaps this was why his question to Jesus was – are you king of the Jews? Because there was only one authorized Empire at the time – the Roman one. When Pilate read the mood of the crowd he went with the flow – and he authorized the crucifixion of Jesus v20-21, 24

The soldiers divided up his clothes [gambled him into nakedness] v. 34 They probably were not well paid and would have benefited from the cloths.

The Crowd condemned Jesus to death v.13-19 To be honest I am not sure why the crowds chose to condemn Jesus. He didn’t do them any harm. In fact, he taught them, he told them stories, when they were sick he healed them, when they were hungry he fed them. But there was something when these people got together and chanted “crucify, crucify, crucify.” Maybe it was crowd mentality. What scientists call group think – when people are together their collective thinking is different and not entirely rational.

The crowd and soldiers stood watching him suffer, they were being sarcastic and cynical v.35 In some ways I could identify with them. After all here is this man who claimed to be God!

I have often wondered what it would have looked like if this happened today.

What would be the newspaper headlines? “Self proclaimed king convicted”. “Carpenter turned “fisher of men” killed.” “Alleged Savior dies defiant.”

What would people be saying on twitter? What kinds of hashtags would have been trending at the time? #CrucifiedKing #Gross #AnotherOneDown #Imposter #Blasphemer

Facebook? What kinds of posts would trending? What kind of memes would be circulating?

Instagram: What photos would be circulating on instagram?

Whatsapp: What would be the talk among people on the ground? What stories would people be whatsapping each other?

More importantly what would have been my response? Would it still have been easier to go with the flow and do what everyone else was doing? Which group would you have been in – the priests, government, the onlookers, the soldiers? What interests would you have had to protect? Which interests do you have to protect now?

As I reflect on the crowds and the different people, I see myself in much of what they did. They went with the flow much like I would have.

Against this very intense pressure of going with the flow, I see one exception. I see a person who stepped beyond the crowd to make it count.

In that last moment there were 3 people all condemned to die. Jesus and the two criminals. They had been beaten, stripped of their cloths, bleeding and in a very uncomfortable position in front of a crowd of jeering, mocking onlookers. Jesus was there to die for our sins, the two criminals were being punished for their own wrong doing. They didn’t have much time to live – and it was a matter of time before they either bled to death, or suffocated to death because of their position on the cross.

Next to Jesus there were 2 criminals. They were not good guys. They had made some mistakes and were paying for them dearly. One of the criminals joined the crowd, even though they were all in trouble together with Jesus v.39. I can imagine that he must have thought that the crowd was right. He was up there and everyone was looking at him and many could hear what he was saying. He chose to go with the flow with the crowd. He mocked Jesus. Then there was the other guy.

For the next few moments I would like to focus on that other criminal who went against the flow in front of everyone. When everyone was condemning, hating, accusing, mocking, being sarcastic, spitting, hitting and speaking against Jesus – this one person stood out. Though he was on the cross, nailed to it, I feel like he stepped out and made it count. I am going to call him ‘that guy’.

That guy stands out for me because in spite of everything and everyone, he came up with a different perspective and acted on it and it paid off. He is the last person anyone would expect to go against the flow. He was very ordinary, in fact he had issues.

Honor God:  v.40 When faced with a situation where everyone mocked and condemned Jesus that guy chose to honor God. It wasn’t a populist or widely accepted thing. He was a lone voice who decided that God had to be honoured.

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 But [that guy] rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence

Before going with the flow he chose to honor God.

From him I learn that whenever tempted to go with the flow I need to evaluate what the action says about my view of God. As a follower of Christ my goal must be to honor Jesus above all else.

It is not often easy. I agree it does feel awkward when in the heat of the moment need to I ask myself “do I not fear God?” But this is precisely the point. I have got to ask myself – is this action or thought or conversation going to dishonor God?

is that gossip going to honor God

is that decision going to honor God

is that choice for my family going to honor God

Going with the flow can be a trap that easily derails me from honouring God and forfeiting every benefit that God has in store for those who love, honor and fear him. 1 Corinthians 2:9 What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him

Everytime I go with the flow, and do something or say something that dishonors God when I am in a crowd I stand the chance of missing out on what greater things that God has in store for me. I have got to ask myself – is this action or thought or conversation going to dishonor God and take away his blessing in my life?

Humility: The criminal recognized his own sin and shortcomings v.41 He was real, and honest about who he was and the fact that he had issues. He acknowledged that he deserved to die for his sin.

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

 Going with the flow sometimes puts me in a position of pride. Sometimes it is easy for me to quickly retweet or pass on something that is damaging to someone else, forgetting that I am not perfect either.

It could be a failure in someone’s leadership, a moral failing, a word spoken out of turn. I agree, we may be justified in our position – but sometimes in going with the flow we may be putting ourselves on a pedestal and looking down on others.

It is important to point out injustice, immorality and other such key issues. We are also called to hold each other accountable for our actions and choices. However whenever we do not do this to go with the flow, we need to do it from a place of honoring God and humility; recognizing that we all have sinned and fall short of God’s expectation for us. What we say, how we say it, when and to who we say it all matter in putting ourselves in a place of humility rather than pride.

I learn from this guy that when faced with a situation where there is pressure to go with the flow, I need to have a realistic understanding of myself. As I make this comment, as I go with the flow here, as I avoid the tension, am I being humble and knowing what my place is?

Romans 12:3 Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment,

Is what we are saying or doing as a crowd being done from place of humility, and not pride?

Hope in Jesus: That guy honored God and he was humble. In the final words that are recorded from him, we see him aligning himself with God and asking for relationship v.42 when faced with a choice, he decided he would align himself with God and seek a relationship.  

This criminal chose to offend his fellow criminal, to go against the crowd, to have an honest self-evaluation and to realize that what was most important here was his relationship with God. He knew he didn’t deserve to live because he was a bad person, but he reached out to God and asked for a chance in His Kingdom.

All that mattered for that guy, at that last moment, was to have a lasting relationship with Jesus. He was right, this important relationship with God in his Kingdom is what will connect me to my purpose and give meaning in my life, both now and for eternity. Paul the apostle put it this way,

1 Corinthians 2:2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

The response that Jesus gave is for me the best happy ending of this story. It is the happy ending I long for at the end of my life. This is what makes the Christian story full of hope for all of us- Jesus said to him what we all long to hear –

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus gave this man hope of eternal life. That is the amazing thing about God especially in this Easter story. When everyone was speaking, God was listening out and when that guy honored God and asked for eternal relationship God answered immediately. By becoming an outcast, the criminal became included in the Kingdom of God.

Through this brief incident we can see the true nature of God. We serve a God who gives us all hope in spite of ourselves. That is why Jesus died, and resurrected – to give you and I hope in spite of ourselves.

All God needed was for that guy to reach out step beyond the crowd to make it count, with all his issues, shame, while facing the consequences of his sin – God heard him and offered him hope.

It did not matter that this man was a bad person, deserving to die, with much to be ashamed about and mocked by all – God was listening and when that guy honoured God, acknowledged his failings and asked God for relationship – God answered right there!

What are your issues? What puts you at a disadvantage? What consequences of your choices are you facing?

This guy’s action of stepping out gives me much hope. That even where I may have made some wrong choices, where I have gone with the flow and dishonored God or been proud – there is Hope, God is listening and is ready to act immediately – all I need to do is reach out.

What is your story? What is it about that guy that you identify with? What choices have you made to go with the flow which have prevented you from honouring God or made you think more highly of yourself than you ought to? What choices have taken you away from relationship with God?

Commit this week to step beyond the crowd to make it count.

Commit yourself to pause before going with the flow retweeting/posting/lifestyle choices/ discussions in the office/my relationship/in the public space/in my family  – commit to do one thing in your social space where there is a crowd to

honor God

speak and act from a place of humility and realness

take hold of the Hope that God offers you

Step Beyond The Crowd To Make it Count

By becoming an outcast, he became included in the Kingdom of God. It did not matter that this man was a bad person, deserving to die, with much to be ashamed about and mocked by all – God was listening and when that guy honoured God, acknowledged his failings and asked God for relationship – God answered right there! This gives me much hope. That even where I may have made some wrong choices, where I have gone with the flow and dishonoured God or been proud – there is Hope, God is listening and is ready to act immediately.

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2 Responses to “Outcast – The Flow”

  1. @Pst T. Thanks for the awesome word, its true God does not always ‘go with the flow’. His school of thought has nothing like the “Mob psychology!”

    I love the words of Isaiaih 51:2 “Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.”

    God went against the flow and ‘called Abraham out’ But later on He increased Him and multiplied Him to become ‘The Father of Nation!’

    Isnt it a beautiful thing when you as a child of God who feels and and looks out of place in your school, place of work or even in yoir own home, to know that the one who matters most is with you? His name is Emmanuel, God with us!

    It is said that me and God make the majority! I believe that from my heart, God calls us when we are alone, He shapes us and places us in our rightfull place before He brings others to back you up!

    I love Him, And i love Mavuno! Shout outs from KIRIAINI, MURANG’A COUNTY! Baraka

    Like

  2. I really needed to hear this word especially because I desire so much to be used of God and what I retweet or repost says whether I honour God or not.

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