Wednesday, June 2, 2021

A Loving Jesus

One of the problems with our remembering Jesus incorrectly - that is, with focusing on His death and resurrection as the very most important thing to the exclusion of all else - is dangerous for our Christian faith. In fact, I think it's what the world has been trying to call us on for awhile now, but we get too caught up in the semantics to catch it. 

See, the world says that we barely know our Jesus. And...they're right. Ask a Christian about Jesus, and he or she is prone to tell you about a Cross and a grave, a Cross and a grave. He died for our sins! He loves us! 

But ask about an example of the love of Jesus that isn't the Cross or the grave, and many Christians struggle to come up with one. 

Because when we make the story of Jesus only about His death and resurrection, it doesn't take long for us to start forgetting all of the other stuff. All of the human stuff. All of the real-life, dirt-meets-the-feet stuff. We come to have this very powerful, earth-shaking, death-defeating Jesus but...what about His tenderness? What about His mercy? What about His grace? What about His love?

This is what the world's been shouting at us for so long - your Jesus, they say, loved people. Why don't you Christians get that? 

The love of Jesus they're talking about is not the love that saves persons from eternal damnation or sanctifies their souls. They're talking about the love of Jesus that ate in the homes of sinners. The love of Jesus that made friends out of a tax collector and a zealot. The love of Jesus that forgave a wayward disciple three times (and probably more, if you get an idea of who Peter was). The love of Jesus that spoke to women in despair and distress. The love of Jesus that restored sight to the blind. The love of Jesus that didn't condemn the guilty, but condemned the judgment of the just-as-sinful. The love of Jesus that stared demons and darkness right in the eye and cast them out. 

The world cannot fathom why we, as a people claiming to be God's people, don't seem to know more about the love of Jesus. And it's simply because these are not the stories that we choose to remember. I've said it before - we don't even remember the incarnation of Jesus as significant. Only inasmuch as it leads us to the Cross. We just completely seem to miss the boat on the Jesus story and it's because we've been told, we've learned somewhere, that Jesus's death and resurrection is the very most important thing and that any time we think of Jesus, any time we remember Him, this is what we're supposed to remember. Because our eternal souls live and breathe on this truth. 

But what about our human hearts? 

Our human hearts need a truth, too, and so do our human neighbors. Our world needs the Jesus whose story the Gospels tell - all of Him. 

One of the things that I think is sad is how easy it is for us to meet another human being somewhere - in a grocery store, at work, in church, even - and to curse them to Hell because they aggravate us. To wish them to die and go to Hell "where they belong" because they don't fit into our plan for our day. We see someone doing something we disagree with, and we know that God is going to judge them eternally for it. And what we don't seem to know is how Jesus would love them right now. Right here. How Jesus would reach out and invite them to dinner or anoint them with oil or stare their darkness in the eyes and cast it out. We don't seem to know how Jesus would be tender with them, merciful. How He would love them. How He does love them.  

Because the Jesus we know, the one we remember so readily and so freely, is the Jesus of eternal life. So it's just easier for us to jump straight to this person's eternity (which we've judged without redemption because hey, Jesus died for me, but not for someone like that) than to do the hard Gospel work of loving them in Jesus's life right here, right now. 

The world's been calling us on this. They have. And we haven't been listening because so often, the world is wrong about our Jesus, too. But they're right about us - we don't know Him. And it's because we choose to remember a mere three days of His three-year ministry and His thirty-plus-year life. 

We have to do better. 

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