“Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”Matthew 16:6
While Jesus was on the boat with his disciples, he warns them to “beware of the yeast of the Pharisees,” to which the disciples show their perplexion by asking if they had brought bread with them. Jesus then clarifies to them to “beware of the teaching of the Pharisees”.
For yeast, even in a small amount, works its way throughout to eventually consummate the dough. It was a warning that the teaching of Pharisees, though small and seemingly innocent, though laced with religious language and religious intent, if given access to one’s life, would result in a life that Jesus would ultimately rage against.
As I was reading this passage one morning before God, I could not better encapsulate a better metaphor for my thoughts on the “woke movement” gripping our culture and now crashing onto the shores of the church. I suppose, like leaven, it seems innocuous and even bears religious language such as “justice”, “lament”, “least of these”. But I am realizing also, that, like the teaching of the Pharisees, and unbeknownst to most Christians, when fully grown, it results in a life and a church that Jesus will ultimately rage against.
For I have seen pictures and images firsthand of what it looks like when this leaven has given full growth. There is a common observation of Christians and churches who go down the path of bearing the sword and shield of a “social justice warrior” that most not fully inculcated or discipled to its ways are blithely unaware of. It is this: most of them become an angry and jaded shell of their former themselves.
They are insufferable and intolerable, “snapping” or “clapping back” at every offense. They bear religious language but the leaven of wokeness has choked every semblance of Jesus within them. They are graceless and unforgiving, for they have become the zealot of a new religion. As a result, most walk away from the faith and love of God altogether.
What is the seed of leaven in the woke movement? What, beneath the religious exterior of wokeness, needs to be revealed for all to see? It is the thing which God hates most, the thing for Jesus will turn tables and rage against:
It is the self-centered heart.
It is the seed of humanism, a godless reality at the heart of the woke movement that is lulling the church to sleep. It is a movement that sees the world only through the eyes of fallen humans and envisages solutions in that light. It is a movement focused on my pain, my experiences, my justice, and my sense of how to fix it. And the woke movement is simply the “collective me” movement saddled and corralled with the language of victimization and the promises of rebellion.
This false justice movement, however, flies in the face of God’s design for justice.
John the Baptist was a person, in our terms, a “justice warrior”. He spoke against Herod for his unethical marriage, (i.e. he spoke “truth to power”), became locked in prison, and ended up with his head on a platter. On paper, social justice warriors would celebrate that life.
But the key to his life and ministry, which is glaringly missed, in his words, was that he was “a friend of the bridegroom”. He was the one who famously said, upon Jesus’ arrival that “He must increase, I must decrease”. Such a framework cannot coexist with the humanism of wokeness. And those who bear the name of “justice” should be reminded of the prophet Habakkuk who, upon asking God where justice was, answered that justice looks nothing like how humans contrive it to be.
I suppose that the difference between wokeness and God’s justice is much like the difference between the earth and the sun. And much to the chagrin of our self-centered humanistic world, I am beginning to abandon the idea that we are the center of the universe and the world is revolving around us. Rather, I am entering the orbit of a universe where God is at the center and that we are revolving around him.
It makes a monumental difference from which vantage point life is seen. Seen through the lens where God is the center of our universe, the profound and prophetic message that wokeness needs to hear and probably won’t like to hear is this:
It’s not about us. And it’s not going to be about us.
And for that reason, I cannot be woke simply by virtue of where I choose to stand and to align my life around. And realigned to that perspective, I sense a calling on my life that I can no longer entertain from the woke world.
I’m not called to entertain the essence of the woke framework which sees the world through the lens of “oppressed vs oppressor.” Such a binary world is godless.
The only framework I see in the Bible is “being a child of God vs those who are not.” And unlike the woke movement which claws for power in that binary, requiring for my feet to be on top of others, the movement to become a child of God first requires our powerlessness. It is the cross of Jesus, a work undeserved and unmatched that makes me a child of God. And the only equal place the Bible sees is at the foot of the cross, where, in light of humanity’s shared brokenness, is made level.
I’m not called to be an “ally” of whatever group feels oppressed and to push them towards whatever feelings they have in their heart. Such destinations are rarely even close to the kingdom of God, whose roads are often laced with vindication, fanciful victimization, and reverse power roles. Rather, I’m called to be a friend of the bridegroom, to hear the pulse of his heart and to pull people towards up to where He is, even as I am seeking to be where he is myself.
I am not called to idolize people’s pain and experiences where, in the woke movement, become gods in it of themselves. In a pluralistic world incapable of saving itself, my gift to the world is rather to stand from the vantage point of where Jesus is because in the light of people’s suffering, it is the only place where I believe people find healing for their pain. It is not the vindictive production of a guilt-ridden world from where we find healing. It is He who wipes tears from our eyes and He who strengthens feeble knees.
I’m not called to entertain the competition of who is the greatest victim or who has the most or least privilege. It is a paltry exercise for those obsessed about who has the worst starting place in life. For I am entranced and transfixed by the One who calls us into “glory to glory” that at the end of the race, we run the race becoming who we were meant to be, bearers of His wonderful image.
Do you see the difference now? Oh how everything within me is shouting at the fallacies of such reductionistic and wrong binaries often pitted against each other in this woke and lifeless discussion.
This isn’t red vs blue.
It isn’t liberal vs conservative.
It isn’t yellow vs black vs white vs brown.
This is children vs orphans.
Wokeness is the talk of orphans. It is the talk and pain of those living in a fatherless and godless world. “Privilege” is a conversation of peasants, squabbling over crumbs underneath a broken and old table. I am done with this dirty table. I am fixing my mind on heaven, where Jesus is. In that place lays a royal banquet table he is inviting a world scraping for crumbs to.
And I’m done with the church that’s leavened by wokeness. It is because I am done with churches operating from orphanness. A church operating from the orphan spirit is godless and offers nothing to the world.
Yet the greatest irony of the woke church is that it’s become what it never intended: asleep.
The woke church is asleep because it offers empathy and lament, but not calling and identity.
It is asleep because it offers apologies and sorries, but not the forgiveness that leads to the banquets of heaven.
It is asleep because it sees only the Lamb, but forgets the Lion from the tribe of Judah who is coming again.
The woke church is asleep because it empowers an offended generation to continue to be transfixed on itself. Such a generation I assure you will stand aghast when Jesus descends from the clouds. They, who now drunk on the wine of selfishness will not welcome His coming. And such a church I have no fellowship with. For as much as I love them, I love Him and his coming more.
The woke church is the neutered church. It is based on a shadow of a neutered God.
For those entrenched in it, come out of it. Observe the day you “became woke” or when wokeness landed the shores of your life–are you more like Jesus or less? Do you feel more loving or less? Do you feel more child-like or jaded? If you feel the semblances of such fruit, then remove the leaven. I guarantee Jesus’ ways of justice are better.
Let those who are fatigued, confused by, tired of the shallow woke movement say amen.
Let those who see beyond the guise of religious intent say amen
Let those who know that the only answer to a world descending into chaos is not less of Jesus, but more of him say amen.
Let those who share the message of the true justice warrior John the Baptist of “he must increase, I must decrease” say amen.
Let those who with everything within them long only for his coming again, let them say amen.
In a world where such amen’s are unpopular and silenced, hated and spitted on, let courage arise and be louder still.
If you are waiting for someone to take the first arrow, then let me be the first.