Jesus does not have a high respect for the reliability of conventional wisdom. His first recorded sermon in the gospel of Mark reads: “‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’” In essence he was saying that there is a whole lot of changing that needs to take place with our assumptions.
Jesus draws a difference between life as most humans know it and God’s kingdom. He announces that God’s nearness and reign require a total change of mind and heart. The good news of God’s reality is that we need to change. We need to be re-created.
Jesus was a keen observer of human lives and motivations. He said to the most respected religious group of his day: “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight” (Luke 16:15, NIV).
“Destestable.” Wow. It sounds so intensely judgmental. He meant it to sound that way. It is a warning from the One who loves us the most.
Jesus knew that something was very wrong with this world of ours. We are what is wrong with the world.
It is not nature, or fate, or karma. Although Jesus prized humanity, human companionship, compassion and love, he did not trust the priorities we keep -- especially the attitudes of religious people.
He knew we are very much given to justifying ourselves. Seeking to save ourselves, we lose ourselves (Matthew 16:25). Self-forgetfulness is essential to good life, but most often our assumptions take us to self-preservation, not self-forgetfulness. “Everything in the world. . .the pride of life -- comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17). And God’s will is simple: love God and love others.
However, the news these days is not so hopeful about human beings moving beyond prideful, self-justifying ways. The unloving world around us can harden our hearts. It is easy to despair about humanity. But nonetheless Jesus insists on his rescuing, redeeming love. “The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both” (1 John 4:21, Message Bible).
God is about a new creation. God is all about having us face ourselves and our world. He is about a renewed creation -- the coming near of God and his rule. He is about the ultimate miracle -- the transformation of the human heart. The good news is the human heart can be changed from an calculus of fear and achievement to an active surrender to God’s love. It is impossible for us to work this out. It is beyond us. But it is not beyond God’s power.
What we value highly is off-target. But what is of true value is waiting at the door. It is the Spirit of God doing what he did at the beginning: creation. With no human assistance he is moving on hearts and re-creating them. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. . .” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
What is “detestable” can be changed to “new creation.”