I enjoy the Facebook discussions on religion and faith. They reveal the deep culture – what people are really thinking. Worldviews range from hard-hitting Christian evangelists out to save lost souls to people who simply don’t think much about God (and are confused as to what the big deal is). One dichotomy constantly emerges though: my way or God’s way; autonomy or God’s will; self-directed freedom or God’s law; I or Thou.
As a Christian, I engage, defend, and promote the gospel. I follow Jesus. I’m a student of Jesus. I submit to Jesus. He’s the King. This is my framework – my worldview.
Many find this view extremely difficult to grasp. They see it as archaic, superstitious, limiting, as well as judgmental, and separatist. Also, many do not like Christians. This dislike is usually based on the behavior of Christians themselves failing to live up to the ideals of Jesus. I empathize, as this was a huge stumbling block for me prior to coming to the faith – which I came to kicking and screaming.
The Christian story, the gospel, the Truth (capital T), is hard for many to hear – let alone accept. One may say that this Truth, is just my Truth, and is subjective, and/or deluded. But that’s the thing – it’s not my Truth. The Christian Truth is Jesus. He is who must be wrestled with. Put another way, many argue, “Well, that’s just your opinion.” No, it’s not my opinion. It’s the teaching of Jesus. Take it up with Him.
What skeptics do rather than contend with Jesus directly is to deflect and point out the flaws of His followers. They also attempt theological, philosophical, and/or biblical discussions that they are either ill-equipped or poorly informed to engage in. They’ll quote weak scholarship, lean on Enlightenment skepticism, adhere to cultural worldviews and values, all the while failing to recognize their own beliefs and trust in these ideas (as well as the promotion of them as superior to the Christian worldview). They don’t recognize their own capital T. From here, they judge, belittle, and argue my position is nonsense – or simply not for them.
Jesus, however, is the ultimate symphony. His followers keep hitting the wrong notes. But the symphony remains intact, perfect, beautiful. Jesus is the self-expression of God. He is the Word – the LOGOS, the ultimate ordering principle in the universe, the highest power – become flesh.
If we want to know God, if we want to see his final revelation of glory, we look at Jesus – His life, ministry, pronouncements, teachings, deeds, miracles, death, and resurrection. This is what we must contend with. We can deflect and run around the bush all day long, but there is still the bush. Is Jesus who He said He was? Is He the great “I am?” If true, it’s of infinite importance.
Jesus struggled often with those who didn’t believe him. One quote (of many) from Jesus, that stands out in light of these Facebook conversations is, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority” – John – Chap 7 (ESV). Jesus puts this another way as well, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me…”
Jesus was speaking to those who were amazed at his knowledge and teaching. Rather than stroke his own ego, Jesus said, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me.” Jesus was showing them that He is indeed the One – sent from God – He is in the Father, and the Father is in Him.
If I told you that I was sent from God, would you believe me? Of course not, and I’d have little to back it up. But Jesus has the goods. The question to ask is, “Is it true?” Is the record of Jesus true?
Before we can answer this, though, we have to ask another question. Who would be the best source for accurate information about Jesus? Who would you listen to? Those who know Him (spent time with him, learned from him, eyewitnesses, believers), or those that claim He’s not who He said He was (skeptics, secular scholars, competing religions). Who would be more right? And how would you know who is more accurate?
If we are locked into our own bias that Jesus can’t be who he says he is, we’ll obviously identify with the latter. But what of the former? Are we to brush off one of the greatest historical accounts, ever? Are Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, and the rest not worthy to consider?
The point here is that there is an inherent bias even in our approach. It’s either what “we” want/expect to find, and thus we ask our questions accordingly. Or, it’s about what God has to tell us about himself through His son, Jesus – via those that recorded the events of His life.
Which road do you take?
This is not a new question. It’s what Leslie Newbigin (borrowing from Martin Buber) fleshes out. It’s either “I” or “Thou. That is, it’s about me, or it’s about God. ” Newbigin writes of those who hold tight to their autonomy, “…I am in control. I decide what questions to ask, what tests to apply. I analyze and dissect. I formulate hypotheses. I force the world to answer the questions I put to it. I am sovereign.”
If we approach Jesus, God (the Creator of the universe) with our sovereignty we will struggle to see him. Faith starts with awe and wonder. It starts with submission to our Creator. When we let go, trusting God, we find him. This is not mystical spirituality, but the practical reality of a personal relationship with the uncreated One.
To approach the Creator of the universe with our agenda is rather silly, isn’t it? What would be of consequence to the One that gives us life? This is not to suggest God doesn’t care about our needs and wants – on the contrary – He gives us Life (capital L). But think about the audacity that we know better than God – the uncreated sovereign One.
But that’s just it. We don’t like this. We don’t like to submit. We worship our autonomy. We place our will front and center on the alter of our lives and worship it. We don’t recognize God’s authority over our lives. We don’t live for God. We don’t worship God. We live for ourselves. We want apples rather than relationship with God.
What will we find on this road?
Thanks for reading,