Thursday, August 30, 2018

What Is Real

As Christians, we know that words really do speak life; they speak reality and form, by their power, the world in which we dwell. We have known this from the very beginning, when God spoke into the formless and void and said, "Let there be..." and there was. 

In a virtual world now utterly dependent upon words and ideas, this creates both an opportunity and a challenge for us as we proclaim the Good News of the Word made flesh.

It is an opportunity because in a world formed by words, humanity could not be more ready for a Word that makes something really real. I mean, really real. A Word that actually delivers on the promise that we've all bought into in our virtual presence, one that becomes flesh-and-blood, even to the degree that we can touch it, hear it, weep with it, enter into a relationship of real love. If all these words and ideas of the people seem real to us, how much more are we aching for one that is truly real to the depths of our experience, to the core of our very being? 

We have, and continue to, essentially waste this opportunity. First, we were wasting it by focusing too heavily on what God approves of and disapproves of, making everyone think this Word was a law, not a being. Telling the world that God was more of a what than a who. And the world wearied of this very quickly.

But we are wasting it today, too, in focusing too much on the flesh of the Word and failing to articulate how He is any different at all from us. We have created a Jesus who doesn't ruffle feathers, who doesn't require anything, who loves without expectation, who is content to have us forever just the way that we are, who doesn't have standards or conceive of right and wrong at all, but is just love, man. He's just cool. You know, like a super-great chill friend who just, you know, chills. And in a world filled with virtual persons, this Jesus is simply not real enough for our ache. He's not.

At the same time, when we make Him real - really real - in the fullness of His flesh and power, we face a significant challenge and a vocal backlash. As much as this world is aching for a real Word that does what we've been conditioned to believe that words really do (creates an existence), it's incredibly offensive when one actually claims to do just that. 

This world kind of wants Jesus to be real. I mean, how cool and awesome and incredible would it be if He was? But as soon as He claims to be, or as soon as we claim Him to be, what audacity! What arrogance! What nerve! To think that our word is somehow more vital, more formative, more real than any other word!

To be honest, it's because we all want to believe, to varying degrees, that our words have the same power to bring forth the reality that we desire to create with them. We want our words to speak our life. We want to form and shape our existence the way the virtual world promises that we can. If this Word, if this Jesus, actually does it, actually becomes Word-made-flesh, actually speaks life, there is a good number of us who believe all the more that we, too, have this power. That we can accomplish this. 

And we're offended when we can't. Because, well, being offended is what we're good at these days. 

So the world aims its offense at God, shouting and screaming to shut Him down while at the very same moment, they ache for what it is that He offers. 

It's what makes evangelism so difficult today. It's what makes it so much harder to share the Word in our world. Because how totally, wonderfully, awesomely cool is it that there is a Word that delivers on all its promises but in the very same breath, how dare He? How dare He?

For real. 

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