Because of the grace that God gave me, I can say to each one of you: don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. Instead, be reasonable since God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you. – Romans 12:3
Today I’m experimenting with a new title for this blog. I’m deeply concerned that too many of us seldom engage the important discipline of thinking – intelligently and creatively – about faith in God and how being followers of the living way of Jesus necessarily impacts who we are and how we live.
Instead, and from the very beginnings of the human story, arrogance has got the better of us. In the Genesis creation narrative, Adam and Eve weigh their own wisdom against God’s, rule in favor of themselves, and choose accordingly.
It’s a perfect “origin story” because it explains the entire human experience so well; everything that follows can find its “genesis” in that kind of pride, egotism, hubris, and willful arrogance.
Then, two thousand years ago, Jesus came to model anti-arrogance, and to demonstrate what humility looks like. That quality of self-giving love –“he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings” (read Philippians 2:1-11) – stood at such odds with the way the world works that he was killed.
But in dying, and via his subsequent resurrection, Jesus set into motion the possibility for humanity to move beyond the soul-crushing limitations of egocentricity and self-interest, ushering in “a new and living way” (Hebrews 10:20). Jesus was/is, Paul explained in Romans 5, a new Adam. Or, in my words, “The firstborn of the second chance.”
Jesus set into motion the possibility for humanity to move beyond the soul-crushing limitations of egocentricity and self-interest…
Romans 12 does a great job of outlining what this new orientation to life looks like, and it is distressing to note how little of our current national conversation is rooted in any of the principles, values, and God-breathed truths Jesus lived, died, and conquered death in order to set in motion.
JESUS STANDS AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM!
This post is already bristling with life-charged scripture references, but I’ll add one more idea from Jesus to bring today’s blog entry toward its conclusion. It comes from Matthew 15, where the legalists try to come down on The Master because – get this – Jesus is nowhere near a literalist or a fundamentalist when it comes to reading scripture!
Here’s what Jesus says: “You nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition….” He also says, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” Then Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah: “’These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’”
At the opening of his Gospel, the disciple John points out that Jesus is the Word made flesh. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1).
Jesus himself makes a point of repeatedly telling people not to get words about religion confused with The Word; not to let what people have written about religious practice inhibit anyone from actually knowing God; not to – as Peter said when he testified at the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 – “…try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
Quickly now – before I ramble any more – what I’m saying is that making the decision to follow Jesus introduces us to a New and Living Way! The responsibility that comes along with such a privilege is not the requirement to march in lockstep to the legal code that throttles, but – instead – an obedience to the imperative of love.
We are set free, and we are invited to live in humility and compassion: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Peace and love – DEREK