Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Sunday Word

Brothers and sisters:
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

When Saint Paul talks about the name of Jesus, he suggests that the name embodies all that he describes in these verses: deity, humanity, humility, servanthood, suffering, death, the cross. 

But is that what the world hears when they hear the name Jesus?

Say the name Jesus, and there are a lot of people who will respond that Jesus is a great moral teacher. He’s a great spiritual guru, just like Buddha, Mohammed, Vishnu or Mother Earth. He’s an ethical character of a story, as in Aesop’s fables. Or Jesus is not much more than a swear word.

None of these understandings of “Jesus” are going to bow a knee or loosen a tongue.

The problem is that Christianity isn’t offering compelling counter pictures of Jesus to a confused culture. Ghandi spoke indicting words to this end: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

The name Jesus is often invoked in favor of certain political issues at the expense of others, leaving many nonbelievers to assume that while Jesus saves, Jesus saves only straight, pro-life, Republican, law-abiding, middle-class, drug-free, model citizens.

That might be some people’s version of Jesus.

It’s not the New Testament Jesus who, we’re happy to note, saved cheats, hookers, thieves and church-persecutors as well as blessing just about everyone he met.

He didn't die for put-together people; he died for train wrecks … like you and me actually. He died for the messed-up pretty people and messed-up ugly people-too.