Already in use in a seminary or church near you…
sting sometimes, with an uncanny ability to expose the lies we tell ourselves and penetrate beyond the carefully crafted exteriors of our lives.
Mostly, of course, we don’t wish to be disrupted from comfort, even if that comfort is an illusion and so we resent being exposed, challenged, and corrected, even by someone we would at least theoretically understand to be the Son of God. So we create exceptions, economias, and sometimes just flat out ignore what we don’t want to hear. Perhaps that’s why we sometimes leave the Bible on the shelf, pious in its placement but largely unread. We’re afraid of what we’re going to discover, afraid of what challenge may come our way if we open it and take what Christ says seriously.
Yet the wounds our Lord may give us are not the wounds of an enemy but the wound that a surgeon must necessarily do for the greater healing. Within all of us are spiritual cancers of various kinds, and all of them left unchecked would certainly take not just our lives but our souls as well. They have to go and if we are willing to accept the diagnosis and the treatment we can recover. If we choose to ignore the path of healing then we will lose the very life we think we’re trying to protect.
An enemy will always tell you what you want to hear but a friend will, when necessary, speak the truth even if that truth is troubling, or by our thin skinned society’s obsession with constant affirmation, offensive. When Jesus gets in our faces, despite what we may think at the time, he’s neither angry nor trying to hurt us. Rather, he’s trying to help us find the life we were actually meant to have in a world of illusions so real we often mistake them for fact. There is wisdom if we understand this.
by actually reading the stories of his life, the Gospels, and the writings of his immediate followers, the Epistles. That sounds like it would be obvious but I’m amazed, often, at how many people who claim to know something about Jesus have, at best, a foggy idea of who he is because they’ve not actually read much, if any, of the source material.
There are others, of course, who have read the source material and because it doesn’t suit their personal desires choose to distort it but that’s for another post. My invitation is simple, just read the stuff. Open that Bible you may have somewhere in your house, start with the Gospel of Matthew, and read it, simply, like you would read any other book.
You might be surprised at how different the Jesus presented in that book is from the popular cultural impressions. You will find that far from being some kind of perpetually nice guy who just wants you to have everything you want, a popular American image of Christ, the Jesus of the Gospels has opinions, judgments even, is robust, challenging, virile, and sometimes mind-blowing. Agree or disagree with Jesus teachings, you’ll still at least understand that if they were to be followed life, yours or the world’s, would not, could not, ever be the same again.
In our days there are a lot of people who want some of Jesus’ personal impact to bolster themselves. They understand, in some sort of way, that Jesus is important and so if they can get Jesus to agree with them than their own arguments, lifestyles, and ambitions will have a sort of “Jesus Stamp of Approval”. Largely these people have their own image of what Jesus is, an image that’s often formed by ignoring the actual stories, words, and actions of Jesus, or borrowing just the snippets of information that confirm their biases.
So my challenge remains. Read the book, the stories of Jesus. Read the whole thing and listen, perhaps for the very first time, to what is really being said. In the end if you think it’s all rubbish at least you can say you tried to understand. If, as you read, you begin to sense some wisdom, something deeper and higher in everything then pursue it because it will take a lifetime and more to come to terms with it.
But don’t claim to know anything about Jesus, even if you’ve spent a lifetime in church, until you’ve read the book.
What do I need? There is nothing on earth that I need, except that which is most essential. What do I need, what is most essential? I need the Lord, I need His grace, His kingdom within me. On earth, which is the place of my wanderings, my temporary being, there is nothing that is truly mine, everything belongs to God and is temporal, everything serves my needs temporarily. What do I need? I need true and active Christian love; I need a loving heart which takes compassion on its neighbors; I need joy over their prosperity and well-being, and sorrow over their sorrows and illnesses, their sins, failings, disorders, woes, poverty; I need warm and sincere compassion for all the circumstances of their lives, joy for those who are joyous and tears for those who are in tears. Enough of selfishness, egoism, living only for oneself and acquiring everything only for oneself: riches, pleasures, the glory of this world; enough of spiritual dying instead of living, grieving instead of rejoicing, and carrying within oneself the poison of selfishness, for selfishness is a poison that is continuously poured into our hearts by Satan. O, let me cry out with King David: Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides Thee. My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart. Grant me, O Lord, true life, dispel the darkness of my passions, disperse their power with Thy strength, for with Thee all things are possible
Msiwe na wasiwasi mkisema, “Tutakula nini?” au “Tutakunywa nini?” au “Tutavaa nini?”… Baba yenu wa mbingui anafahamu kwamba mnahitaji yote hayo. Lakini uta futeni kwanza Ufalme wa mbinguni na haki yake, na haya yote mtaongezewa. Kwa hiyo msihangaike kuhusu kesho, kwa sababu kesho itajihangaika yenyewe. Kila siku ina shida zake za kutosha.
Do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?”… for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
– Matthew 6:31-34