Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Peace of Christ

Now that we've laid the foundation for how it is that we come to believe whatever it is that we believe about Christ, based on a reflection of our own flesh and our estimation thereof, it's time for another question about this Jesus of ours. 

Was He a harsh man or a gentle one? 

The same factors are at play here as are at work in the introvert/extrovert question we've been asking this week. If you are one prone to harshness or even cynicism, then you are likely to see how often Jesus speaks harshly against others, particularly the Pharisees. In fact, you'll see that the more you turn pages in the Gospels, the more Jesus is crying out, "Cursed are you!" and turning over tables in the Temple and asking, "How long must I put up with you?" It comes as no surprise to you how often Jesus seemed frustrated and even fed up with this world, and why should it? You likely feel the same way about the world you live in. 

On the other hand, if you're a reconciler, if you're a person who tries to stay positive in this world, if you're someone who believes that love is soft and quiet and unassuming, you're more likely to see how often Jesus reached out and touched this world, healing it. You're more likely to talk about quiet moments when He stretched a lame man's arm, spoke with a woman at a well, stopped to talk with an unclean woman, straightened the back of one stooped over, opened the eyes of the blind, etc. All this healing Jesus did in the world? Of course He was a gentle man! Look at all the gentle love and tender mercies He put out into the world. And your life motto is probably something like "Go, and do likewise." 

Now, it's interesting here because only in one case is the opposite true. If you tend to think yourself too harsh, too judgmental, too negative or if you've heard feedback in your life that says you might be these things, and you have come to disvalue them in yourself, you are likely to see the gentler, more tender side of Jesus, the same way that an introvert who does not value his or her disposition is prone to see the opposite in Jesus as a catalyst to draw him or her into a way of living that is perceived to be more desirable. 

But if you think yourself too gentle, too positive, too rosy-eyed for this world, and if you find this an undesirable trait in yourself, you are no more likely to see the harsher side of Jesus than you previously were. You would not look at Him turning tables and cursing Pharisees and think to yourself, "I need to be more like that."

Because, of course, that is not a socially valued trait in our society. At least, we wouldn't say that it is. No one wants to be angrier (despite what mass media is trying to get us to be). No one wants to be more violent. No one thinks himself too gentle and decides that he ought to be more intimidating. In this case, the opposite that we see in Jesus is too extreme for our human sensibilities, and we begin to seek ways that we can find Him less gentle, but not necessarily harsh. 

Isn't there some middle ground?

And indeed, there is. 

In fact, it's what we're all looking for, really, though most of us would never know how to put words to it. We want a Jesus who truly is a Man of peace the way that He says He is, but we have trouble reconciling the two extremes that we see in Him with what we conceive of as true peace. How does a Christ who is always upsetting things, always turning them end over end, claim anything even remotely similar to peace? On every page of the Gospels, He's stirring things up! For better or for worse, He's ruffling feathers. Yet, we are told that He is a Man of peace, and we must therefore reconcile this, for the sake of our faith. 

Thankfully, it's not so difficult. Well, perhaps easier said than done, but simple nonetheless.

When we come to questions like this, questions that center on who Jesus claims to be and not on who He reflects in us, things that are central to His nature rather than neither really here nor there in ours (the introvert/extrovert question, for example - neither is "better" than the other and neither is essential to God's nature for Him to be who He claims to be), we must look not to the flesh of Jesus, but to the spirit of Him. 

What's that? How do you see the spirit of a man? Of any man, let alone of the Son of Man? 

It's easy. Shift your gaze from His hands to His eyes....

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