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Wonderfully Unorthodox

• Greg Boyd

In this weekend’s Palm Sunday service, Greg felt led to continue and expand on his message of loving people and losing labels. The brain needs repetition to really get something, and this message is so foundational to the kingdom, that it is worth continuing.

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A couple of weeks ago Greg preached on the fact that if you’re going to love people, you have to lose labels. In the time since then, that message has stuck with him and he felt the pull to continue to preach in that direction. The brain needs repetition to really get something, and this is so foundational to the kingdom that it is worth preaching again. It can make such a massive difference in how you view yourself and others. And the world is so opposite of this, that without repetition we become complacent, so we need to hear this again and again. 

If you want to love people the way God loves, you have to lose labels. 

We start by reading Matthew 21:7-11. 

They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

For the people, this was all about deliverance. They were longing for the messiah, who they had imagined would free them from the cruel, heavy rule of the Romans. They acknowledged that Jesus seemed to have supernatural powers, and he spoke with a kind of authority that people had not seen before. These things convinced people that he might really be the messiah they had been waiting for. So when he rode into town on a donkey like the prophecy, the people cried out “Hosannah!” It means “Deliver us.” But it’s like a prayer of gratitude ahead of time. He is coming to deliver us. They wanted Israel to be restored to where it was under king David. So they put branches on the ground – this was a sign of anticipated victory. 

But Jesus also had some quirks that did not fit the bill — for one, he kept preaching to love your enemies. Praised faith of a non-religious centurion pagan, and he hung out with sinners. None if this was what messiah supposed to do. The messiah is supposed to trample our enemies, be super-religious and only hobnob with the holiest of the holy. And, more than anything, the messiah was NOT supposed to get arrested.

So, a week later, this same crowd is saying something very different. Pilot asked the crowds who to release, and they chose the other, saying about Jesus “Crucify him!” Mark 15:12-13. 

Why? What changed is that he got arrested and that is not what a messiah is supposed to do. They had poured all their hopes into him, and they felt beyond let down, they felt betrayed. If he’s not going to use his power to help himself then he certainly won’t use it to help them, so what kind of messiah is he? Just kill him. 

Jesus was not the kind of Messiah anyone was looking for. The religion of the time (and arguably what we continue to do today) was to Make God in our own image to do our bidding. We believe that our god is more powerful than other gods, and will protect us, give us some of his power, so that we can crush our enemies. People think fighting for God and country is a uniquely American thing, but is the oldest motivation in the book!

This is why in Psalm 50:21 the writer quotes God as saying, “These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself.”

We assume God is just like us. Our self-righteous brain so loves to be right, we assume God agrees with us and is just like us. It’s the same old Us Vs. Them polarity that the world revolves around. We do this as part of establishing our identity — because as they say, in every “you are” there is an “I am.” We use slogans and banners and flags to rally people together around a common cause which is almost always against a common enemy. In fact sociologists say it’s part of the very definition of a group — there can’t be a group with out having another group to be against. 

Well Jesus is here to prove them wrong! There is no Them, there is just US.

This is why Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 —

“For the love of Christ compels us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.  From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

What he is talking about is removing labels of Us vs. Them and Better vs. Worse. From now on, we shall regard no one from a human point of view, where we let our five senses or social strata or physical form define reality. From now on we look at everyone in a new way, because everything has passed away everything IS new! The cross has changed everything for everybody. 

The kingdom is an “us” without a “them”! 

And from God’s perspective, everybody is in. (Romans 5:18) Our call is to see everything and everyone from the lens of the cross. To die to our fallen mind always judging and comparing and contrasting and measuring — these behaviors are antithetical to the kingdom. When you learn how to catch your mind doing it, and reverse course, this is where we begin to change. We start to see people as worth dying for, as insiders. 

For the second part of his sermon, Greg invited up Dan Cashman from the TAP, which stands for Tapping All Possibilities. It’s a ministry where people of ALL different abilities come together to hang out, play games, dance, sing karaoke, and just generally have a good time. This group demonstrates what it means to get rid of labels, and the profound effect this has for people.

The #1 problem of people with disabilities is a lack of social inclusion. This can be deadly, people suffer from suicide, depression, addiction and worse. But being freed from these labels and being accepted can be the most healing experience for people. 

You don’t even realize how many judgements and labels you have for yourself and others until you go to one of these parties and are free from them. This is why Jesus said when you have a party don’t just invite your friends, invite people you don’t know. 

Removing these labels saves lives. Dan shared a couple of stories from people that attend the TAP — Like Paul. He was an alcoholic, and had anxiety, depression, and debilitating agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) to the point that Paul spent most of his time living in a closet. The first time he came to TAP he only stayed 10 minutes. The next time he stayed longer, and eventually he opened up more and more, and now he plays Santa every Christmas and leads the Better Together recovery group at the Refuge on Thursdays. 

Another example Greg gave was his own son, who has the label of “high functioning autism” and with this, he suffers from terrible social anxiety. He went to TAP a couple times and before long he got up there singing karaoke! This was nothing short of a miracle.

At TAP we get to see the beauty of a person without fear, expressing who they are freely. Jesus describes the kingdom as a party, where everyone is welcome and everyone is free — and it must look something kind of like this. 

If you want to join in the kingdom-looking party with TAP, you can join us at Woodland Hills on Monday nights 6-9PM, attend one of the monthly “Friday night dance parties” or go to http://yourtap.org.

If you want to love like God loves, the first thing you have to do is remove labels. There is no “normal” or “special” or “us” or “them” — there is simply a FREE person who is loved! God’s love does not pick and choose, it comes in the way the sun shines or like the rain falls, like a blanket on ALL. 

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Topics: Community, Discipleship, Identity in Christ, Relationships


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Focus Scripture:

  • Matthew 21:7-11

    They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee."

  • Psalm 50:21

    These things you have done and I have been silent; you thought that I was one just like yourself.

  • Ephesians 2:14, 16

    For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that....he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.

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One thought on “Wonderfully Unorthodox

    Mike says: Thursday April 18, 2019 at 1:14 am

    So, in a Woodland Hills group that discussed this sermon, the facilitator said that EVERYONE is in Christ, but some just don’t know it. It was also said that God is not offended by sin. I heard that evangelicals are wrong for wanting to influence people to accept Christ. I heard that we don’t need to receive Christ to be saved. I heard that there is no us and them. I heard that evangelicals are just trying to get people to agree with them. I heard that homosexuals do not need to repent of sin in order to be saved.
    The judgment and hate I heard for evangelicals in this group was alarming. Absolutely contrary to what Woodland Hills is supposed to be about. The statements that were just flat out contrary to Scripture were astounding. Everyone is NOT in Christ…only those who have His Spirit living within them, through their repentance from sin and faith in Him and the sacrifice He made for them. Being in Christ is a possibility for everyone because of Christ’s sacrifice, but that doesn’t mean everyone is already in Christ. Scripture says IF someone is in Christ, they are a new creation.
    God is deeply offended by sin. It grieves Him. But, He still loves the sinner. Evangelicals have an urgency to reach the lost that probably should put many of us to shame. How many people have come to Christ because of OUR testimony?They want people to know that Christ died for them and that they can be saved from their sin. This is not trying to get people to agree with THEM, it’s trying to get people to agree with CHRIST.
    People DO need to receive Christ. John says, “as many as RECEIVED Him, to them he gave the power to become children of God”.
    Paul has a long list of sins we need to repent of, and “men having sex with men” is one of them. If that is one of the sins with which you struggle, then you need to repent of it, which means to change your mind about the way you view it so it is in line with the way God views it. It may be awhile before you can live in victory over it, but you must start by agreeing with God that it’s a sin and have a desire to leave that lifestyle. This is true for all other sins of which we repent as well.
    And finally, there IS an us and them. It’s not us VERSUS them, but there is a clear distinction in Scripture between those who have faith in Christ and those who don’t…those who have the Spirit of Christ and those who don’t….those who are of Christ and those who are of the world. those who are adopted into God’s family, and those who aren’t. They are not our enemies, though. They are our mission field.
    Repentance from sin is something we rarely hear from the pulpit at Woodland Hills, but Jesus preached it, why can’t we? I spoke with someone this week who has been attending Woodland Hills for years. She knew God loved her and Jesus died for her, but she had no clue that she needed to make a conscious decision to turn from sin and turn to Him to accept His gift of salvation and eternal life. I find it alarming that someone can sit under the preaching of Woodland Hills for years and years, and still not know this. God did His part by loving us and dying for us and making the gift of salvation available to us, but we MUST DO OUR PART by repenting of sin and accepting His gift.


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