Wednesday, June 23, 2004
The Stand: Jesus Christ
In talking about where I stand, I need to start here - because Jesus is the only foundational thing that I've fought mentally, spiritually and culturally to uphold. Frankly, everything else has been up for grabs, for better or for worse. In so many of the "postmodern church" or "emerging church" circles, I see people deconstruct too far. They remove Jesus from the context of scriptures and real existence, and try to make Him fit into some other mold or manta. I'd rather be changed by Him, than to try to change Him. When I toss my own ideas on that subject into the ring, I feel like I'm either shot down by those who no longer hold to any foundational truths, or there's a subtle rising of other folks who go "whew, I'm glad someone else still likes to have Jesus around".
Two books have challenged the way I think, both by Brian McLaren. In Finding Faith, he writes about how we need to ask better questions, and then let any good answers we find lead us to better questions again. He also details what I think is the best journey-map for growing in spiritual maturity. In going from one level to another, there is always going to be pain (I'm paraphrasing) as we let go of previously held "foundations" and jump onto what is hopefully a more solid footing. We have to let go of things we hold dear, or if we can't, we end up saying "no" and stifling our journey. Too many people never move forward, not wanting to let go of things with which they're comfortable, not taking into account that these might be the very things holding them back.
His other book that whacked me has been New Kind Of Christian, a novel of the journey from "having it all figured out" towards a new path of "let's keep learning and keep maturing". As I read the book, I joined an email list discussion, and that's where the wheels came off. It's there that I really first discovered that people project onto the characters what they want them to be and do. Folks made comments that were so blatantly wrong that I wondered if they were reading the same book. It seemed like they wanted the characters to take Jesus out of everything, while I was reading that Jesus was still in everything, just in a new and more meaningful and authentic way than ever before. I was seeing more Jesus, and others seemed to be negotiating Him out of the cycle. I realize that it was my own bias to keep Him in the loop that made me read it that way, that I was no different except for the mindset at the beginning. But I thank God that I didn't try to figure it out without Jesus squarely in the middle of things.
So I hold on to Jesus, tightly. He is the Son of God (Matthew 11:27), the Word of God (John 1:1), and He is God (John 8:58), living today after dying for the forgiveness of my sin (Matthew 26:28) and resurrecting to new life so that I might do likewise (Romans 6:5; John 15:5). He died "for God" first (Romans 3:25-26), for me second (John 3:16), and His redemption "saves me" to follow Him more than it keeps me out of hell. When I read scripture, I watch how He interacts with people, and I think about their reactions to Him in the circumstance. The best part of The Passion Of The Christ for me was looking at Jesus' eyes, seeing how people looked at Him and how He connected with them in an instant, in ways that really changed their lives. The parables ooze with truths that break down "truths". Where this present cultural mindset is against "absolute truth", I see Jesus having and being "Truth, absolutely". I see Him being countercultural to the Roman forces around Him, and to the prevalent religious structure He came to redeem and to set straight in love. I see Him being merciful first (John 8:11), serving first (John 13), and being judgmental only to those who should've known better. And I hear Him saying, "you can do it, too, and even better" (John 14:12), as He calls us individually and corporately (in that order) to a life that's more abundant than the ones we're living (John 10:10), individually and corporately (in that order), today. He calls us to serve, to lay down our living so that others might have life (John 15:13), and to bring glory to the Father as He is prone to do.
It's like I've rediscovered His deity and His humanity on this journey, and my old ideas of who He is and what He's about have been too small up to now. As I've held onto Him, He's held onto me, and gotten that much more glorious and that much more magnificent for the exchange.
UPDATE: Had this in my inbox, and thought it fit into this "stand":
- Life-Changing - Leo Tolstoy
There are many reasons for the failure to comprehend Christ's
teaching...but the chief cause which has engendered all these
misconceptions is this: that Christ's teaching is considered to be such as
can be accepted, or not accepted, without changing one's life.
[from Bruderhof.com, Daily Dig, 06/24/2004]