|picture borrowed from everydayfunnyfunny.com|
When I was younger I was told that Jesus died for me sins. I asked, “Why? Why did Jesus die for my sins? If Jesus is God why did anything need to be satisfied? Who is God to satisfy anyone, not least of all Satan? Plus, it seems like a lot of trouble to go through just for one person. You are telling me Jesus died for my sins so I can go to heaven. But I am sorry. I just don’t quite get it.”
It wasn’t until many years later, when I sat in one of my very first classes at Seminary and the Professor said to the class, “I know we have a tendency to read Scripture as the ‘Jesus and me’ story. But it is actually much bigger than that. It is the story of ‘Jesus and humanity.’” Remarkable. You mean it wasn’t all about me? You mean there is actually a bigger story at play here? Now before you get the wrong idea about what I am meaning to communicate, you must know that I do not wish to take us out of the story, but rather that we may find our place in the great and epic story of God.
I have come to the dark realization that I have fallen prey to making my Christianity all about me. My salvation, my needs, my prayers, my hopes, my dreams, my relationships, etc. Of course, God invites us to share our lives, but there is so much more at play than just ourselves and getting our needs met by God. God has indeed saved us and delivered us from ourselves. We have been empowered by the Spirit to, literally, be Jesus to the world (!) Why is it that we feel the need to go to an altar every chance we get in order to be delivered from some sort of struggle? We pray and ask God to move. We beg God to do something. Yet God has done the greatest thing he could ever do: God has incarnated him/herself into the person of Jesus Christ in order to start this project of new humanity to be carried out by the church that would be empowered by the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit. Yet we still find ourselves a broken and crippled people; unable to offer the world much, let alone a chance to experience a new kind of kingdom.
A favorite story of mine…Mark 1:29-34, Jesus enters the house of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever. Jesus went to the woman, took her hand and lifted her out of bed. The text reads, “Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.” WOW! So powerful. Jesus healed her and she immediately got up and started serving him. Why can’t we be more like that? Jesus heals us and makes us whole and we immediately start serving him by serving those whom he resides in (which vis-à-vis Matthew 25 happens to be ‘the least of these’). Interesting. We don’t hear stories of this woman going back to Christ again and again begging him to heal her because it didn’t quite stick the first time. Or perhaps she was so busy serving him that she had no time to think about falling prey to fever once more.
This idea of individualism that has permeated the western church is subtle and deceitful. Jesus has saved you, indeed. But your salvation isn’t designed for just you. It is designed to make us people of God in order for us to join in the recreation of humanity and the world.
In Luke 3, John the Baptist is questioned. “What then should we do [to receive the baptism of repentance]?” John’s reply? “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Wow, John. We don’t like this. Not sure what to do with this. This sounds like a works oriented sort of a gospel. WRONG. John is not saying that simply doing these things will save us. What he is saying is that if we truly have the spirit of repentance in our hearts then it will be apparent. If we have two coats, we will give one away to the one who has none. If we truly have the spirit of repentance in our hearts we will feed those with no food.
If, we as Christians, say we have Jesus in our hearts, yet do nothing in bringing the kingdom in a way that is apparent and real, then do we really have Jesus in our ‘hearts?’
Jesus did die for my sins. The spirit of God does live in me and is manifested stronger when I take part in community, as the Trinity is community. Yet the Son of God died so that we could be made whole in God in order that we might bring the Kingdom of God to the world. Jesus died so we could be free to live as God intended: in full relationship with God and in full relationship with one another. And what does that look like when it hits the ground…well that is another blog post… J