Jesus' Mercy Changes Me, We and the World

Theology of the Underside

Sadly, this will be my last devotion with God’s Grace Community Church. I am leaving for a new adventure, but before I go, I’d like to share a quote that speaks to me. 

“I am not the only one who sees the underside and God at the same time. There are lots of us, and we are at home in the biblical stories of antiheroes and people who don’t get it; beloved prostitutes and rough fishermen.”
 – Nadia Bolz-Weber, ‘Pastrix’

For those of you in Denver, you might remember when Nadia was in the news as the tattooed pastor who swears in church. She truly understands the radical inclusive message of Jesus and models what it means to be the church. At the Iliff School of Theology, I am honored to be studying in her shadow.

And I love this quote of hers because it points to what church should be all about: being a welcoming space to bring our full and authentic selves into relationship with God and others, to learn from each other, and to work together for a better world—the Kingdom of God, as they say.

Jesus modeled this way of living by hanging out with those on “the underside” – the prostitutes and fishermen Nadia speaks of – those who don’t have power in the society they live in. He ate with them, was friends with them, learned from them, lived with them, and suffered with them. 

Jesus’ challenge to those not on the underside, comes in Matthew 16:24-26, when he says. “Take up your cross and follow me.” He invites anyone with power to join in the struggle of those on the underside. What does this look like today?

  • It looks like white people protesting for justice for our Black and Asian siblings.
  • It looks like straight people fighting for equality and inclusion of our LGBTQ+ siblings.
  • It looks like citizens reforming the visa system for our immigrant siblings. 
  • It looks like homeowners petitioning for affordable housing for our homeless siblings. 
  • It looks like men respecting boundaries around women and believing their allegations of abuse.
  • It looks like returning land to indigenous people.
  • It looks like educating ourselves on institutionalized racism and homophobia.

It looks like a lot of work, and risk, and awkward conversations… because it is… because that’s what Jesus did. 

Christians believe in living differently, in including all people, in learning about their experiences, in confessing our ignorance and misdoings, and in finding new and creative ways to build communities of hope. 

As churches are reopening and reinventing themselves, I hope they take the time to consider where they have failed to do these things in the past. I hope they consider the traumas we’ve all been through and think about ways to include “the underside dwellers of society” in their theology. The reality is we are all very different from one another, but we all need each other. If anyone isn’t being seen or heard or validated for their full and authentic self, it’s not really the Kingdom of God that Jesus was preaching, is it? 

I am grateful to have grown up in the tight knit community of God’s Grace. I want to wish all of you well. May your faith journey be one of creative new theologies, inquisitive questions, and radical inclusion of all people. And may you be blessed. 

With peace and love,

Zach Herzog