It Takes Chutzpa

The Yiddish language provides us with a word some may consider an effrontery, but I choose to accept as the way of Jesus: chutzpa [boldness, nerve, guts]. I’m convinced that some Christians have a lack of chutzpa in their understanding of the Christian faith.


Let me be clear: The way of Jesus is a path of humility and service (James 4:10; Mark 10:45) and meekness and surrender (Matthew 5:5, 39). But Christianity is anything but insipid and passive.


I read this week about a woman who took refuge in a Unity Church, and said she felt at home there because teddy bears were provided in all the pews for churchgoers (the adults, not the children) “to hug to themselves during the service” (Norris, Amazing Grace, 114).


What a far cry from Jesus’ call to eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:53). The Divine took on earthy, dirty, sweaty flesh (John 1:14). Kathleen Norris reminds us that,


over the centuries, Christians have grown adept at finding ways to disincarnate the religion, resisting the scandalous notion that what is holy can have much to do with the muck and smell of a stable, the painful agony of death on a cross. The Incarnation remains a scandal to anyone who wants religion to be a purely spiritual matter, an etherized, bloodless bliss (idem.).


God came into the world and became one of us, and He calls us to continue going into the world with chutzpa, so that the Kingdom of Heaven becomes a reality on earth. It takes chutzpa to love our neighbor, especially the one who aggravates us. It takes chutzpa to take seriously our earthly citizenship as heavenly citizens (Philippians 3:20) and enter the political arena and vote. It takes chutzpa to love our spouse well, to have an exemplary work ethic, to practice the way of Jesus through daily spiritual disciplines, and not just make our faith a one-day-a-week experience. It takes chutzpa to resist the devil that he would flee from us (James 4:7). 


It actually takes chutzpa to be meek, humble, and gracious. Sometimes it would be much easier to lash out, prove your point, and belittle your opponent. I have found the temporary euphoria of winning an argument swallowed up by the pain of losing a friend. We are to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19). That takes chutzpa.


My challenge for us is to accept that boldness and humility are two sides of the same coin. If we take one without the other, we either become a bully or a teddy bear hugger. Sure, it’s okay to like teddy bears, but let’s not equate them with the way of Jesus. Let’s follow the way of Jesus who “set His face toward Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51) to do what had to be done. That, my friends, took a lot of chutzpa.