Most white people understand what a black person means when he calls someone a “honky.” If they can’t define it verbally they feel what it means—oppressor, bigot, slave-trader, exploiter, and in many ways, middle-class. A honky belongs to the status quo, the safe, the comfortable. “Funky,” on the other hand, may be a new term to many of you. In black parlance funky often has certain positive connotations. For example, if I call a song funky I mean that either voice or instrument stepped creatively from behind the strictures of the notes, boldly and freely authenticating his or her own soul in the rendition of the number. Funky stands opposite to honky—liberated, authentic, creative.

These two adjectives used in relation to the Gospel incarnate in Jesus pinpoint the problem I see in traditional evangelical circles, black or white. We and our leaders have been preaching a honky Christ to a world hungry for the funky Jesus of the Bible. The honky Christ stands with the status quo, the funky Jesus moves apart from the ruling religious system. Jesus stood with and for the poor and oppressed and disinherited. He came for the sick and needy.

Jesus announced his call in Luke 4:16–20. God’s spirit was upon him “to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Nothing else is added to the call. He closed the book, gave it to the attendant, and sat down. And to ensure that his audience understood why he read that passage, he added, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Christ never ...

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