Thursday, 29 November 2007

WDJD - What DID Jesus Do?

The WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) movement sprang up about ten years ago. It was loosely based on a book that asked people to consider their actions in light of what Jesus would do in their position. The acronym WWJD suddenly appeared everywhere - on keychains, rings, wristbands and bracelets, bookmarks, stickers, Bible covers, even backpacks and purses. It was a nice sentiment - a bit cheesy, but more or less harmless and not really offensive even to members of secular society, most of whom could respect the humanitarian teachings of the historical Jesus.

In reality, WWJD is a signpost that ought to warn us just how far into wish-land Christianity has slipped. Instead of concerning ourselves with facts and realities, those of us who call ourselves Christians have collectively become more and more interested in what might be and what we hope, think, wish to be rather than what is. We dabble in shadows. We are convinced by dubious accounts of the "miraculous", stories that play on our emotions, and meta-philosophies that do little more than confirm what we are already sure of - our own superiority. We ignore most of what ought to uniquely concern human beings, what is natural and reasonable - our responsibility to manage and nurture the earth, our relationship with other human beings, all that belongs to the realm of reason and human experience. Instead, we want to play about with the supernatural. We take our delight not in the wonders of oceans and trees and stars, nor the mysteries of love and life. We have lost sight of what IS, and have become fascinated, rather, with unverifiable tales, and ideas that lead us out of our natural sphere and into a land of half-lights where we are singled out for special revelations. In that land, our imaginations are given free reign, and we are elevated to gods and demi-gods by virtue of our individualised experiences of a "God" who not vast and unchanging, but as various and as fickle as we are.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to Secular Humanism, which has at last stood up and said, "Enough is enough". Though its adherents deny God, they at times demonstrate who He is and who we are with more clarity than much of what masquerades as "Christianity".

We who call ourselves Christians need to stop believing the lie that calls "mysterious" what might be better labelled murky and dubious. I don't deny the existence of a spiritual reality. The supernatural is just as real as the natural. But it is not the native sphere of the human. And we ought not to confuse the spiritual with the merely supernatural. Neither one is a thing to be toyed with.

What is spiritual is not fully comprehended in reason, but that offers us no excuse to lazily toss reason aside and settle for wishy-washy definitions, or to fully depend on personal experience. The spiritual realities described by the Bible are NEVER unreasonable. Even while they are not fully comprehended in reason, they never deny reason's bases, nor its value.

The question then is not, "What WOULD Jesus Do?", but "What DID Jesus Do?". And indeed, why should it matter?

At the center of Christianity is the issue of who Jesus is. The linguistic root of "Christianity" is "Christ" - the Greek word the Hebrew "maschiah" or "messiah" - the "sent" one. Jesus is "sent" from God in fulfillment of God's promise to the world through the Jewish people. "Jesus" comes from "Yeshua", meaning "saviour". His full title is tranlated into English as "the Lord Jesus Christ". "Lord" is a term used in place of the Hebrew "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" - the Almighty God. Jesus is the Almighty God, Sent as a Saviour.

Jesus is God come to us in human flesh. He is the Creator of all things. He is God demonstrating his love in willingness to experience what we experience as humans. He is God willing, for Love's sake, to humble himself, to take on the pains and indignities of human life. He is a Holy God beyond the scope of our universes and countless universes unimagined by us, the Source of Light and Life and Love. He is in his essence, not merely his position, Worthy and pure. He is Light and lives in Light. He is personal. The Eternal One showed his pity for a beautiful but flawed and floundering humanity not by reaching down - but by becoming what we are; by sharing our experience. Jesus is the High and Holy God willing to leave behind all that belongs to him - glory, peace, worship, light, and the full fellowship of Love - in order to demonstrate Love in human terms. He doesn't hold out a tingly experience, shiny angel-sightings, or sweeping emotion. He comes himself - Love eating and drinking with fishermen and prostitutes, Love attending weddings and telling stories; Love paying taxes and cooking breakfast; Love tired and hungry, with a beard and dirty feet; Love sweating and breathing and crying and bleeding.

The Lord Jesus Christ laid aside all that is his - the worship of a realm we cannot imagine, the incomprehensible glory belonging to the Prince of heaven, the deep beauty of God, the undisturbed joy of Love's daily fellowship with Love. He became part of the secular, human world that he had created. He ate and drank, worked and wept. He shared the simple joys and the wracking suffering that belongs to humanity. He demonstrated Love in a tired, hungry world reaching for the divine but devastated by selfishness.

But that isn't all he did. He didn't just hold out the love that we so long for. He stood between us and God. He accepted the consequences of his own character. He took on the results of our flaws and our selfishness before God. He allowed God to lay our guilt on him. Jesus died to demonstrate his full indentification with a broken, dying humanity, and he accepted God's judgement of our selfishness. Through him, we can approach a pure and holy God. Because he sacrificed his own comfort and his own pleasure for Love, he broke the hold selfishness has over us as humans. In choosing him, we can be free from the flaw that eats away at our best gifts. He offers us his own Spirit, not to give us supernatural powers that will allow us to cure our friends of cancer or deal masterfully with demons, but to give us a spiritual power that demonstrates itself by setting us free from the selfishness that destroys us.

Jesus comes not, as we have presented him, in white-robed splendour with coast-to-coast tours and glowing billboard testimonials, promising freedom from poverty and sickness. He comes to us in the dust of the everyday. He reconciles Jews with Palestinian Arabs, North Americans with Iranians, Britons with First Nations peoples, Koreans with Japanese. He says that Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus and Mormans and Wiccans are not enemies, but fellow humans to the Christian. To the one who chooses him he gives a power that overcomes the seeping poison of self-interest that hides beneath mother-love, humanitarian compassion, and the fidelity of friends.

He who is Love, demonstrated Love to his own hurt, and offers us the power to love truly. That's what Jesus did.


Karen K said...

Its so true the importance of asking "not what would jesus do" as though its something we have to muddle through and is difficult to figure out, but what DID he actually do and say.

bjk said...

Instead of concerning ourselves with facts and realities, those of us who call ourselves Christians have collectively become more and more interested in what might be and what we hope, think, wish to be rather than what is.

Which takes me as usual to Larry Crabbs quote of THE POINT of the journey is to WANT what GOD WANTS MORE THAN ANYTHING.....

jennypo said...

bjk, what you say is true, but when I hear it, my heart is like a petulant child, whining, "But I want what I want. How to want anything else?"
And I am reminded of a principle that seems to be at work in our world - choose first, want will follow. Today I want to eat Doritos and icecream and lay about and watch movies. I don't choose those things because I don't want the consequences. But I have experienced this - as I choose what I know to be good, I begin to want it. I develop a taste for broccoli instead of Doritos, and for running instead of watching movies. Eventually, I prefer those things. But the choice, in the beginning, hurts. And we humans hate to hurt. Only maturity (whether on a spiritual or an emotional level) allows us to make our choices based on facts - the known result, rather than the feel-good now.

Brandon said...

I think you make a really good point out of all of this. The answer to what Jesus WOULD do lies in what he actually DID do. We should look to that, rather than trying to conjure up our own conclusions of what we think he'd have done. Great post, Jennypo.

Robert said...

Freud said *we want what we want when we want it and we want it right now* such is our bane as selfish humans Jennypo you spell out in pure clearness Jesus overcomes this insticnt which is inherent in us once we exit the womb, Jesus came to serve not to be served. Even though He was God he did not seek to be treated as such or exalt His authority while He was here So easy to focus on the wonders mysteries and grnadeur of the supernatural aspects of God as opposed to the basic ordinary simple acts of love He did all the time.