Jesus, A Little Bit Wild?

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By Kelley Johnson-Nikondeha

Not too long ago my seven-year-old son approached me, saying: “I am scared of Jesus, Mom.”

My immediate response was, “Why?”

“Well, Jesus is a little bit wild,” he said.

At this, he took my breath away in the best sense … Once I caught my breath, I asked: “How is He wild?” He recounted our conversation about how Jesus chose to announce His arrival to insignificant shepherds, instead of the important king; about how Jesus turned tables over inside of the church building; how He did not let the disciples protect Him in the garden with a sword … I could not disagree with my son: Jesus is a little bit wild.

A Lot Wild

I love that my son, all of seven years old, has caught on to something essential about the essence of Jesus. Already he is beginning to grasp that Jesus did not (and does not) see things like we see them. He sees importance where we see insignificance, He names hypocrisy where we boast religiosity, He models non-violence when we would sanction violence to protect a beloved friend. Jesus upends so many of our long-held assumptions about the world and even His Kingdom, that it can be unsettling–like tables turned, coins scattered and bird feathers gone amuck like confetti cluttering the air.

In recent days I have been contemplating Justin’s epiphany, allowing it to become more my own. And the deeper truth I am coming to is that Jesus is not just a little wild, He is “a lot wild.” As a woman raised in a respectable Christian home, one who took her first communion in the church and served in almost all capacities of ministry at one time or another, the more I reflect on Jesus, the more I am startled by what I see.

Which Jesus?

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John describe Jesus as a radical figure in the Palestinian scene, someone who defined “wild” with every parable, every healing, each demonstration of His Kingdom. Sometimes I think I am still following the flannel-graph Jesus from Sunday School, the one awash in pastel colors, neatly draped robes and slightly blushing cheeks. Somewhere along the way I inherited a domesticated Jesus.

Here are some marks of wildness I see in Jesus these days:

  • He challenges who I love, pushing me to the extreme of loving my enemies. Live in a place like Burundi or Rwanda, where ethnic hatred spawns genocide, and you know that an imperative to love the other is wild beyond reason. The same can be said of seasons in South Africa, Kenya, Sudan. Yet Jesus says that this is the brand of love His followers exude. I don’t think I have any outright enemies, but I have people I judge more harshly than friends, and it is a slippery slope I must address in my heart.
  • He pushes me to extend the guest list at my parties, to include those I would never think to invite on my own. He says to include the poor, stench-ridden, limping and lisping ones to the banquet, as He does. So what if they can never return the favor–make them feel like they belong, because in His wild world, they do. I think of this as I prepare to host an annual gathering, and confront my own guest list and my own reticence to include some.
  • He forces me to rethink my politics. Some people assume Jesus is a card-carrying member of their party, while others are sure He could care less about politics altogether. But Jesus does seem to care about politics, and was quite a rebel in His day. He would confront any group of people who banded together against the poor, He would address any political reality that locked some out of favor and into permanent servitude, He was a tireless advocate for the oppressed. Am I an advocate for the oppressed in my community? Do I even know who is oppressed in my neighborhood or nation?
  • He even confronts me with economic realities. The Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus taught us, clearly says,”… and forgive us our debts as we forgive those with debts against us.” I have learned recently that over time and translation, the words have been shifted from “debts” to “trespasses” or “sins.” But the original words and the first meaning was about concrete debts, money that I owe you or you owe me. We are to free each other from the weight of those real debts so none of us are economically enslaved. Now, I find that to be outrageously wild. In the core prayer Jesus entrusted to us, we are to be praying about debts and release from debts. This makes more sense to me now that I have lived in Africa, where we are owed real debts that I must learn to forgive as I pray this prayer. Wild.

I think I am beginning to see Jesus more akin to my son–as one who lives in bright colors with a mischievous glint in His eyes. He is an untamed savior who knocks over our sacred cows and church bells as He demonstrates what God’s Kingdom is really all about. It is wild–and it is good. And, yes, it is a little bit scary, too.

About Kelley:

Kelley Johnson is director of Amahoro Africa with her husband Claude. She’s a thinker, connector, advocate, avid reader and mother of two beautiful children. Kelley blogs at Anchored in Burundi.

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Idelette McVicker
I like soggy cereal and I would like to go to every spot on the map of the earth to meet our world’s women. I dream of a world where no women or girls are for sale. I dream of a world where women and men are partners in doing the work that brings down a new Heaven on earth. My word last year was “roar” and I learned it’s not about my voice rising as much as it is about our collective voices rising in unison to bring down walls of injustice. This year, my own word is “soar.” I have three children and this place–right here, called shelovesmagazine.com–is my fourth baby. I am African, although my skin colour doesn’t tell you that story. I am also a little bit Chinese, because my heart lives there amongst the tall skyscrapers of Taipei and the mountains of Chiufen. Give me sweet chai and I think I’m in heaven. I live in Vancouver, Canada and I pledged my heart to Scott 11 years ago. I believe in kindness and calling out the song in each other’s hearts. I also believe that Love covers–my gaps, my mistakes and the distances between us. I blog at idelette.com and tweet @idelette.
Idelette McVicker

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  • Justin, what an astute little boy…wow….

    I love this: Sometimes I think I am still following the flannel-graph Jesus from Sunday School, the one awash in pastel colors, neatly draped robes and slightly blushing cheeks. Somewhere along the way I inherited a domesticated Jesus.

    *sigh* Agreed. Fallen into that trap for many years…

    Lately, I feel quite the opposite. I am encountering a dangerous God. A daredevil. “In bright colors with a mischievous glint in His eyes” God.

    All limits off. No boundaries. Free to dream. Free to dare. Free to embrace the promise of an abundant life.

    And while it is exhilarating, it is scary. It like finding a treasure chest filled with gold and precious stones in the middle of nowhere and wondering if you are allowed to touch it.

    All of this for little ol’ *me*?

    Thanks of the reminder that we do not serve a Pastel-Jesus, but a Fuchsia, Turquoise, Amber….Jesus.

    Love you Kel!

  • Kelley, I want to read this post over and over again to let it really sink in.

    My absolute favorite moment is this: “He is an untamed savior who knocks over our sacred cows and church bells as He demonstrates what God’s Kingdom is really all about.”

    I love our wild Jesus. Love him so much.

  • Kelley Johnson Nikondeha

    I ~
    His wildness can get us into trouble with ‘respectable people’ if we follow in his wake and example! But the older I get, the more free I feel to follow. I seem to become more wild with each year!

    I pray the Jesus I share with my children will be ever wild, never so domesticated that they think he is safe.

    Hope you had a great day yesterday with your Valentines!

    Teen ~ multi-color, technicolor Jesus! He rocks! Sometimes I need shades when I see him at work!

  • I also think this is worth many re-reads! Thank you!

  • Judy and Jim Halvorsen

    Greetings Kelley. Thanks for the great article following up on Justin’s insight. A Lion He is. Tame He is not. And, oh how the Lion loves! Thank you for the reminder and challenge. Blessings.