Tuesday, January 17, 2017


Our theology of social programs has reduced Jesus to helper, rather than healer. But this is only one of the serious consequences this idea has on our theology. A second implication is that in making Jesus helper, we have diminished, if not lost completely, the Holy Spirit.

The idea of Jesus as helper does not offend most Christians; after all, wasn't there something in the Gospels about a helper? And isn't every other word of God of this sort fulfilled in Jesus? God said there would be a Messiah; this is Jesus. God said there would be a servant; this is Jesus. God said there would be one greater than all of these; this is Jesus. So our natural inclination is to hear that God said something about there being a helper and this, too, must be Jesus. 

But not quite.

The Helper was not a prophecy of God; He was a promise of Jesus. God did not speak of the Helper; Jesus did. Jesus does not speak of Himself in the same way that God speaks of Him. And He does not say that He will be our Helper, but that He will send us one. The Holy Spirit, who makes His appearance early in Acts.

This is vitally important. It's important because when we understand the Helper in the context of Jesus, we are bound to interpret Him as one interested in social programs and what has become known as the prosperity Gospel - this Helper is sent to make sure our lives go well, that we have all that we ask or desire, that our problems are solved, that we live at peace. After all, this is the example of Jesus (sort of), and if the Helper is interpreted in light of the Lord, then of course, we are going to come to this conclusion.

But the testimony of Jesus is not one of helping, not one of prosperity or of life without trouble. Much less so is this the testimony of the Holy Spirit. The Helper is meant not to meet our worldly needs, but our spiritual ones. In the absence of the Rabbi, the Holy Spirit becomes our Teacher. In the absence of the Son, the Holy Spirit becomes our Brother. In the absence of the Lord, the Holy Spirit becomes our Helper. He is our guide to holy living when the footprints of Jesus have all but faded from the road. 

That doesn't guarantee us an absence of trouble, but strength in the midst of it. That doesn't guarantee us perfect peace, but a perfect chance at peace of heart. That doesn't solve our problems, but it resolves our tension. How then should we live? There is a Helper. 

And with this Helper in sight, we can look back clearly at the testimony of Jesus and discover that He is, and always has been, quite different from the Spirit. No Helper, this Lord is Healer. We see clearly what He has done in the world, and He settles for nothing less than the whole - whole healing, whole teaching, whole sacrifice, whole love. Who, then, are we to not long for the same?

We cannot settle for helping when we have been called to heal. 

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