“Who do people say I am?” Jesus asked them. The disciples had heard tell of a lot of things—that he was John the Baptist back from the dead, or the prophet Elijah back from the great beyond, or the next of the great prophets. Jesus heard all their blathering, then looked at them and said, “But who do you say that I am?”
How would you answer Jesus’s question?
If you’ve hung around church a bit, you’ll see that many folks have been schooled to quote the next verse of that story, be satisfied (even if mystified) by that answer, and go about their day. But forget the answer lingering in the next verse. Pretend you haven’t cheated by reading ahead in the story.
My answer, at least for today, is “Jesus was maladjusted.” Hear me out on this one. Looking over the gospel of Mark, there is this pattern of Jesus doing what he can for the people around him because, as Jesus says, the world is not yet as it ought to be. Sometimes what Jesus does is its miraculous and sometimes its ordinary. Often it’s confrontational with convention. He doesn’t know his place. He doesn’t play by the rules. He doesn’t accept the way things are. He doesn’t just fall in line.
There is apparently a word for this: maladjusted. It literally means someone who fails to satisfactorily adjust their actions, expectations, and desires according to circumstances of their life. This sounds a like Jesus to me. Jesus doesn’t adjust his actions, expectations, and desires to fit the culture of his upbringing. He flat out refuses to accept that the way things are is the way they ought to be. For him, buy sumatriptan online people ought not be sick, they ought to be well. People ought not be ruled over by powerful elite, they ought to have a say. People ought not go hungry, they ought to be fed. People ought not live in fear that rages on like a storm, they ought to experience peace and calm. He did what he could, to make right what he could, fighting back against the people who wanted him to just fall in line, to sit down, to shut up, to look the other way.
Who do you say Jesus is?
You know my answer. Jesus was maladjusted. He refused to adjust to his culture. He didn’t fall in line or keep quiet or pretend he didn’t see the hurt in the world. He refused to adjust himself to the hurt and suffering of others, the abuses of power and corruption within his community, and the segregation and oppression that had become commonplace. He was maladjusted.
Dare I say it, as followers of Jesus, it means we are to be maladjusted to our culture, too. I, for one, never intend to adjust to the violence that has become common place. I never intend to adjust to the building of walls at our borders or turning refugees away. I never intend to adjust to the discrimination faced by people with black and brown bodies. I never intend to adjust to people having to beg for food on the street.
As disciples of Jesus, let us, too, be maladjusted. Because it is only in our maladjustment that we can envision a new way of being and move forward.
Laura Arnold, Program Support/Adjunct Lay Education at Iowa Conference UCC and Pastor at Decorah Congregational UCC