Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"Why Jesus Makes Me Uncomfortable" - David

Not the babe, but his words as an adult...
The words of Jesus leave me uncomfortable. Not the image of Jesus as a baby - we've seen so many Christmas cards in the last weeks of him as an infant - but the statements of Christ during his ministry.

Living in a liberal-democratic society one accepts fundamental concepts: fairness, the value of education, equality of all, and the freedom of choice. Our governments make the best decisions possible. The ability to choose, and therefore control one's own destiny underlies fundamental concepts of the "middle class": we control our lives to maximize our results. We accept the freedom of each religion to "tell their own truth".

But, the further our discussion group gets into the book of Luke, in our regular study with Peter Ferguson, the more uncomfortable the words of Jesus make me feel. Jesus undercuts almost all these assumptions.

The 70 had been sent out, two by two and they returned, full of joy, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." They have seen that actions done in the name of Jesus have an authority higher than any form of evil.

Jesus, full of joy, replies, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Luke 10:21,22

These words challenge basic concepts of our world view. The 'wise and learned' cannot understand 'hidden things'. But, 'babes' can. Jesus claims a divinity and certainty that goes far beyond the limits that western materialistic society can accept.

The discomfort, of course, arises partially for historical reasons. When the "Church" laid claim to universal truth, and power, centuries of abuse took place. That power to persecute those who disagreed with the church was eventually replaced by new concept, fundamental to our world view today - Human rights of the individual.

How can one accept the claims of Jesus, that the 'wise and learned' are blind to 'these things', without eventually wanting to link that religious certainty with its  corollary: political power. And, who would accept that today?

That's where the mission of Jesus comes in: servant leadership. Henri J.M.Nouwen deals with this riddle in his book, In the Name of Jesus. "Dealing with burning issues without being rooted in a deep personal relationship with God easily leads to divisiveness because, before we know it, our sense of self is caught up in our opinion about a given subject. But when we are securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life, it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative." (p. 31,32)

Ah, servant hood. Now, that's a huge challenge to us in an individualistic society. That's kingdom power.

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