Christ’s yoke is easy and burden light when pitching truth to power by Jim Davis
Spirited Reflection – Sunday, July 6, 2014
Jim Davis is the Board Relations and Resources Associate at KAIROS.
This past week Saint John the Baptist Day was celebrated in many parts of the world, replete in some places with giant water fights. John was austere, may be even priggishly disciplined for many, living the harsh acetic life he did wearing clothes of camel’s hair, and living on a diet of locust and wild honey.
While a forerunner of Jesus, John was dismissed by many. Jesus came and was critiqued by his detractors as being too holistic, abundant in existential human emotions and relationship with all kinds of people, some seemingly socially unredeemable to the elites of his day.
Gospel writer Matthew records Jesus saying “ that John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’” (Mt 11:18); conversely, Jesus continues, “the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (v. 19).
In our present Canadian civil society conjuncture this reminds me metaphorically of the different approaches organizations take in reporting permissible, allowable non-partisan political activities under Canadian charity law while promoting and advocating for human rights and redistributive justice, consistent with their missions.
Churches and ecumenical organizations should engage in permissible political activities to address the root causes of systemic injustice as Jesus would, rather than only dealing with symptoms of such injustice. One of the seminal books of my undergraduate years was John Howard Yoder’s Politics of Jesus which has been subsequently made more theologically accessible. The transformative missio Dei and the heart of the worshiping, fellowshipping and serving Church universal is in fact to help usher in God’s reign of justice – and that is very political.
In lieu of an inordinate focus on the variances and vagaries in the application of Canadian charity law – not to mention the real opportunity costs of rigorous compliance, perhaps we should get back to first principles. God is justice and love; moreover, Jesus said,
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Mt. 11: 28-30
So, while a robust conversation certainly should happen among churches and ecumenical organizations about their respective approaches to faithfully caring out the politics of Jesus in relation to complying with Canadian charity law, we also need to embrace or take on Christ’s yoke of being God’s courageous faithful witness in Canada and the world, in spite of all the distractions and discouragement that may come with applying and complying with Canadian charity law.
In dealing with Canadian charity law and in life, how about pitching the truth to power without a lot of spin on it?
Cy Young award winning Toronto Blue Jay pitcher R. A. Dickey throws an unpredictable 70-something mph knuckleball. A knuckleball is thrown so as to have no spin, as opposed to other baseball pitches. He throws the knuckleball slower when behind on the count, and faster when he’s ahead. As a right handed pitcher, the flight of the pitch is typically up and in, and then trails down and away from the batter. When he’s on his game, imagine the frustration of a right-handed batter.
While we may not always be “successful” in the world’s terms, God does call the Church and Christian community to be a faithful movement for justice. God is calling us to be faithful in trying to pitch cogent political advocacy for justice over our modern Roman or pharisaic interlocutors’ plate (even knuckleballs), whatever the consequences, which for Dickey, let alone God, has been reasonably successful.
Just try to avoid the cheap grace of having your interlocutor awarded first base by either not engaging him or her or striking the batter as self-righteous.
Whether you’re timid and risk averse, or bold and tired of not being emulated by others, take Christ’s yoke or burden of speaking truth to power and find rest for your souls.