Rethinking God’s Prophets (part 3) – Brad Jersak
In parts 1 and 2 of this series, I explored an analogy that compared the Bible and the human conscience to prophets of God, such as John the Baptist or Nathan. I suggested that neither the Bible nor the human conscience should usurp Christ from the throne of grace, but they do have a God-given role in testifying to him.
In this final installment, I’ll suggest a third prophet-like witness: a category that we might call “these little ones” or the “least of these.”
God’s little prophets
My agenda here his two-fold. First, I want to emphasize the nature of God’s prophets as Christlike in their humility, when all too often, those who self-identify as prophets present themselves as grandiose. Second, I want to recount Jesus’ words about the ‘little ones’ or ‘the least of these’ as touch-points for kingdom encounters.
In order, first this business of grandiosity. The recovery community rightly identifies that kind of pride as a major culprit in addictions relapse (next to resentment). Why? Because those who walk with a strut soon see themselves above others, use them to feed their egos and ultimately, spiritually abuse them. I know this trap. The harm I’ve done others in ministry always began with some sense of entitlement. Only by God’s mercy was I able to move on. So, grandiosity (even disguised as ‘my identity in Christ’), far from befitting a prophet, is virtually the opposite of the poverty of spirit that we see in true prophets and in Christ himself.
Jesus paints a very different picture when he says,
- 2 Jesus invited a little child to stand among them. 3 Truly I tell you,” He said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:2-4).
And again he says,
- “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).
Why are little children privileged gatekeepers of the kingdom of heaven? The obvious answers include their childlike trust, their way of being around Jesus–not posturing like the religious ‘authorities’ but genuinely comfortable in the presence of Jesus. As if he loves them. As if they belong. As if they have his attention already and know everything with him makes it okay for them to just be. This is the kingdom of God … and to perceive this is to perceive them as prophets with a message for us. Jesus says it so clearly, “Be like them. You aren’t even beginning to see what the kingdom of God is like until you relate to me as they do.” Now that’s truly prophetic.
Similarly, Jesus speaks about the “least of these my brethren” in Matthew 25 in his parable of the sheep and goats. He refers to those on the margins–the naked, the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the stranger, the imprisoned. What do they have in common? In some way, they comprise “the least” in our social hierarchies. In my city, that could include the homeless, people with disabilities, and the indigenous people. To the degree they are underfoot, Jesus makes this clear: when you minister to them, you minister to him. That is, you MEET JESUS in those encounters. If we were attentive, we might even hear his voice through them. They might become his prophets, bearing a special gift for us.