Monday, January 17, 2022

That is not my Jesus. . .

A conversation online was both shocking and expected.  The typical issues of sex and gender came up -- well, really, they were the reason why the conversation began.  In speaking to sex and gender from the perspective of Scripture and tradition, it did not take long for the great divide to show up.  "That's not my Jesus!"  The Jesus that this person knew was affirming, encouraging, tolerant, accepting, and approving.  This Jesus did not challenge -- only empathized.  This was not a Jesus of right and wrong but of freedom and self-expression and choice.  Sadly, that is typically how such a conversation usually ends.  The Jesus I am talking about ends up being labeled a hater and the Jesus who does not hate is powerless except to affirm what people have chosen or decided for themselves.  

Scripture plays an unusual role in this conversation.  The Bible ends up offering mere suggestions instead of any definitive or authoritative answers.  It ends up more with questions than conclusions and we end up being the ones who decide what is truth and what is true in this truth.  It is presumed that Scriptures offers no one answer but only many choices, each subject to many interpretations.  Therefore there cannot really be any end to this conversation or any resolution or consensus.  Perhaps that is the point.  The conversation exists only for us to express ourselves and not for any meaningful communication.  It could be that social media encouraged this kind of conversation or it could be that we defined social media to showcase a conversation already begun.  I honestly am not sure which came first -- the chicken or the egg.

There was no end to the conversation because it could not begin.  Without any common understanding that Scripture spoke with one voice to address these issues or just about anything else, there was basis for any conversation.  If everything was merely subject to their own opinions or preferences or truths, there is no Jesus to be known at all -- except the individual Jesus in essence created by every individual person.  What began as a post about an online conversation is ending with the problem of Christianity as a whole.  At the time of the Reformation the facts of Christianity were not in question or dispute.  God's creation, the history of His chosen people, the content of the Law, the voice of the prophets, the facts of Jesus' conception, birth, life, suffering, death, and resurrection, and so many other things were not in dispute.  There was no conflict about the creeds.  Of course, there was a great divide over what this meant and how it would be applied to us as God's people but not on the facts of the faith.  There was no "my Jesus" or "your Jesus."

Now the individualism that has characterized Christian views of Scripture, its facts, its history, and its meaning has gravitated to the churches.  Churches omit and reinterpret and dismiss the facts of the faith and presume that the faith is somehow divorced from or aloof from the facts.  If there is a my Jesus and a your Jesus, there can be no real Jesus at all -- only the Jesus of our imagination or definition.  Perhaps that is why there is no real ecumenism left.  We have no common facts of the faith so what do we have to discuss?  Our preferences?  Is the ecumenical conversation merely a discussion of likes or dislikes or do we have something more to speak about?  The modern version of ecumenism has no common confession at the end of it but is satisfied with vague words that mean what the churches want them to mean.  So, for example, in the ELCA, a broad diversity of views about baptism and the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist are not church dividing but there is no latitude allowed when it comes to allowing a broad diversity of sex and gender choices left to personal preference.  The dividing line of church fellowship has moved from the facts of Scripture to the realm of personal choice about me -- my sexual desires, my gender identity, my right, my wrong, and my Jesus who is good with it all.

Well, that is not my Jesus but not because I have a preference.  It is not my Jesus because it is not THE Jesus.  There is only one Christ -- the Christ of the Scriptures.  He is the God of creation and the God-man of history and the God breath of life.  There is no God to be known but Him and no way to know this God but through His Word -- His self-disclosure.  This faith lives not in our imagination and not in our feelings but in the facts of God's mighty work.  Only because it lives there first can it live in us and inform the mind and direct the heart and will.  It seems that many, too many, are in love with the idea of Christ and Christianity but reject Him and His Church.  It is no wonder why the pews are emptying and the witness ineffective.  Come on, Christians.  Get your story straight and things might be different.

No comments: