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Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The "other" uncomfortable Jesus.

A few weeks ago, I was shown this poem by G. Betty Hares.


Conceived out of wedlock,
Born in an outhouse,
Laid in a make shift bed of unsterile straw.

Let's trim it up a bit,
Make the cows gentle,
Add a sky of soft velvet and bright twinkling stars.

Let's accent the romance.
Forget the reality;
After all it did take place a long time ago.

We know such things happen,
But this must have been different,
This was the Son of God crying and cold.

Deep down I've a feeling,
He refused to be different,
That his birth, like his death, was as bad as could be.

If it's different I've made it so,
Heaven forgive me!
And that's why I'm blind when I meet him today,
In the addict, the drop out, the homeless, the hungry.
And that's why they often don't meet him in me.

I like this poem, because it challenges the way we have so often mythologised our concept of Christ.

We prefer to create for ourselves a "comfortable" Jesus, one that is easy to live with.

There is a dual nature to the person of Christ, and I think that most of us tend to gravitate towards one aspect of his nature or the other. Some of us like the idea that Jesus was kind-hearted and healed people. But we're not too sure about cursing fig trees and storming the money changers tables with whip in hand. We like the gentle, meek user friendly image of Jesus. Oh yes, we understand that he will sit in judgement one day, but lets not dwell on that now shall we?

Atheist Richard Dawkins has said that he finds the story of the crucifixion utterly abhorrent. But he quite likes the beatitudes. So he is comfortable with one idea of Jesus, but not with another.

Then there are those that gravitate to the more authoritative Jesus, those powerful images of storms going out at the breath of his words, warnings of judgement to come. For them, power is embraced at the cost of mercy.

We need to see and understand Jesus in his completeness. Because if we focus only on the "nice" Jesus, then we bypass judgement and accountability. But if we focus only on judgement and authority, then we shut people off from grace.

So how do these two natures sit in balance? Here are some clues.

Matthew 10:16b Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Psalm 85:10 Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Ephesians 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head even Christ.

Throughout the scriptures we see this balance happening. Where truth, judgement, wisdom, righteousness, are paired together with peace, love, innocence, mercy. In the verse in Ephesians, Paul is telling us that obtaining this balance is the key to growing into Christ. And I particularly love the picture of intimacy between righteousness and peace.

We sing a song in church at the moment, that speaks of God's FURIOUS LOVE  being poured onto the cross. It is a confronting idea that God, in that same moment, poured out BOTH, his WRATH and his LOVE.

Richard Dawkins rejects the idea of the cross. Because he cannot reconcile the compatibility of these dual natures.

The poem I began with speaks of an inability to see Jesus in the needs of others, and the inability of the needy to see Jesus in us. We pray and cry out for more of him. But maybe what we really need is all of him. When we embrace both his regal nature as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and his submissive nature as the Lamb of God. When we understand what it means to exercise judgement and mercy together, then we will be more like him.

Footnote. As I was working on this post, I got all excited about this idea of "The Lion and the Lamb laying down together". Because we quote that all the time right? Except no such verse exists. I thought for certain that it was in Revelation. Wrong. It does in fact come to us in mixed up form, from a verse in Isaiah 11:6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.

And, I was so excited because I was going to work this idea into the post. I was certain I would astound you all with this killer of a point. Which brings me back to how easily we get carried away with our mythologised views of Christ.

A favourite preacher of mine, Charles Nieman once said, "If you're going to preach the Bible, then preach the Bible, at least find out what it says."

That's good advice.

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