Is it possible that all Jesus really wanted to do was to communicate these simple truths;
- You are loved and accepted as you are
- You don’t have to fear God or death
Because of that…
- Your neighbor is not your enemy
- You don’t have to kill anyone to be safe
- You can give more than take
- You can share with others and still be OK.
Having spent nearly 2 decades studying the scriptures, contemplating Jesus life, considering his teaching, and trying to make sense of his death and resurrection I sometimes wonder if it can be that simple?
At the same time, I also live in the real world where there are what seem to be many intractable problems (poverty, injustice, oppression, violence and so on). I wonder if living out those simple truths could actually make a dent in some of those problems? Think about it. If every person on the planet truly heard and internalized those simple truths, everything would change. It’s quite elegant, really. Within the complexity of the world we live in, the things we teach children are among the most powerful ideas and actions in the world.
To see more clearly the power of those simple truths, consider their opposites
- You are unlovable and deserve to be rejected
- Fear God and the flames of hell at your death
Because of that…
- Your neighbor is your enemy
- You may have to kill (or at the very least reject others) to be safe
- Take what you can when you can
- Don’t share with others, you never know when you are going to need what you just gave away
Think about what seem to be intractable problems and try to make some connections. Are the negative expressions of these truths at work, at some level, in the cause of the problem? Are the positive expressions of these truths at work, at some level, in the solution?
I think you will find these ideas and issues are at work, at some level, in the world as either cause or solution. Of course we fill them up with greater depth and detail – the issues get more complex. Yet, they retain, at their core, the issues raised.
As we debate, within the church, the nature of the resurrection, the Trinity, the fully divine, yet fully human, Jesus, and so on, we can obscure some of the most important practices Jesus’ came to teach and empower in us and through us.
When learning to hit a baseball, my coach would always say, “Keep your eye on the ball”. That’s a good word for those of us who follow Jesus, as well. Paul might say, “Keep your eye on the prize which is the upward call of Jesus.” Many define the “prize” and the “upward call” of Paul as heaven, but that’s not what he was talking about. He was talking about living the simple, profound and world-changing way of Jesus here and now. The call is not to “go up” to heaven. The call is to live to a higher standard – God’s standard as modeled and taught by Jesus – today.