Jesus Christ was a real revolutionary with a Kingdom worldview. He was so offensive to the rich and powerful that they sought to put him to death, and eventually succeeded. When we read the Bible today, because our culture is different to the culture that Jesus lived in, we can miss just how radical the worldview of Jesus was.

The weeping prostitute reveals the radical worldview of Jesus

A story that may help with this is told in Luke 7:36-50 when Jesus went to the home of Simon the Pharisee. A prostitute sneaks into the room where men of high standing are eating. She stands close to Jesus and wets his feet with her tears and wipes them with her hair pouring perfume on his feet. It is hard to describe what an embarrassing situation this would have been for all present. This was in the home of an esteemed religious leader and here was a woman of ill repute, who would have been known as such in that community, acting in inappropriate intimacy.

Most of us, if we were Jesus in that setting, would seek to distance ourselves from the woman so we were not associated with her or her embarrassing proximity. Yet Jesus does the exact opposite. He is so tender toward her and so blazingly harsh on the man offering him hospitality.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:44-47).

If we lived in that culture and were sitting in that room listening to Jesus, we would think what Jesus said was both scandalous and unspeakably rude. How dare he prefer this uninvited imposter over the esteemed host of the meal?

Jesus’ revolutionary impact was grounded in a radically different worldview

Jesus brought a view of the world so radically different and at odds with how his fellow attendees at the meal viewed the world, that listening to him made them at once fascinated and mad. He was so radical because he had a different view of the world, a different worldview to them. Their worldview was a religious worldview, where people believed if they did the right things and said the right things according to law and tradition, they would qualify to be accepted by God.

Jesus’ worldview was what I call a trinitarian worldview. The central truth of the trinitarian worldview is that God has reached down to us in Jesus and made a way for us to come into relationship with the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit. Rather than us reaching up to God, God is reaching down to us.

This was a radical challenge to the religious worldview at the time.

The worldviews we live with can undermine faith in Christ

When I was at an all-boys boarding school in the 1980s, I was embarrassed about my faith in Jesus. I had no answer for the taunts of the boys around me. While we would attend chapel and say grace at meals, that, for most of my schoolmates, was a relic of a past era, the foundation for which had long gone. We were in the era of science and facts and talk about a spiritual reality beyond what we could see or investigate made no sense. The belief system that operated in the classroom or dormitory sucked the oxygen from the flame of my faith. And so, I found I had no basis to persuade my fellow dorm mates that what I was engaged in was not a dead tradition but a living relationship.

At the time, I had no idea that what I was struggling with was the fact that I had a different worldview to my compatriots. My worldview was one shaped by Jesus. But unlike Jesus, I was not a real revolutionary. Unlike him, I was unable to boldly put my worldview out there and allow it to deeply unsettle all who came into contact with me. At the time, I did not even know that my faith in Jesus needed to be undergirded by a worldview that did not share the assumptions of the worldview that all my school mates shared – the modern worldview*.

Worldviews have belief at their heart

When I was an even younger boy, I used to love the Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators books. The storyline was much the same in each. There was a mystery that looked as though it had supernatural origins. The boys, who were the investigators, would always solve the mystery and what seemed supernatural would always turn out to have a natural explanation.

That is the modern worldview, the worldview that I encountered every day at boarding school. It believes that all that can be known always has a natural explanation. It allows no reality outside of the time-space dimensions we live in. This worldview cannot prove that there is no reality beyond space-time, but, for the sake of getting at the facts, it chooses to disallow anything that cannot be tested and proved within space-time.

When I was at school, it would have been so helpful to me if someone had helped me to understand the assumptions of the modern worldview and ask the question, what radical discomfort does Jesus bring to the modern worldview?

Likewise, in these days, for most young people at school, we should also be asking the questions, what do we need to understand about the various worldviews we live with and alongside and what radical discomfort does Jesus bring to each of them?

Seeking to understand these worldviews and to ask how Jesus unsettles them, is a vital task for disciples of Jesus in this generation. If we can work that out then we may be taking steps toward being real revolutionaries ourselves – revolutionaries for the Kingdom of God!

*The modern worldview is just one of a number of worldviews that have an influence on us every day. In a church community in Pietermaritzburg we workshopped the various worldviews that a range of people encounter on a daily basis and we came up with this list – primal, postcolonial, ancient, modern, postmodern, religious, eastern and trinitarian. To answer the question of the radical discomfort that Jesus brings to each of these, will require us to unpack each of these worldviews in future articles.