Monday, February 14, 2011

On Jesus

The question stares me down.

"What meaning does Jesus Christ have in your life?"

I do not know how to answer.

I used to know. When I lived my school life in evangelical Christian circles, the answer was nearly always supposed to be something about the state of your personal relationship with Christ. Usually it wound up sounding like he was going with you to the mall later today, or that he had just sent you the funniest text message. Ideas that did not ring true.

Oh, I don't intend to belittle that some people can and do feel a close relationship, an emotional relationship with their God. In some ways I envy that. I have never felt it; or if I have, it has been one that faded with the descent from the proverbial mountaintop. How can one talk about Jesus in that way? You can't call him on the phone, sit up at night having a conversation that ranges from the profound to the hilarious, or be pen pals, or talk to him on Facebook chat. Sure, you can try, but you'll find things a trifle one-sided. Or maybe you won't. But I always have.

Not to say, you understand, that I don't believe God is there. I believe, on the contrary, that he (or she) is here with me as I type; and moreover, I believe that he (or she) cares. The personal God is a bedrock of Christianity-- the God who cared enough to become incarnate in us.

There it is, maybe. The elusive answer I've been struggling for. I'm never sure what to tell a Methodist about the state of my relationship with God-- certain but questioning may be most accurate. As certain as a questioner can be at least. If the Jesus who is the Son of God, a Messiah for humanity, which I do believe as a Christian-- then even as I grapple with exactly how personal I feel that God to be, then it entails certain implications.

And even if, as I am beginning to consider, Jesus-- the historical Jesus, mind you-- may not have been from the divine in the way recorded in the Bible (see Bruce Chilton's Rabbi Jesus), there is still the chance that maybe either way, Jesus was OF the divine.

This too carries implications:

To live a life that honors God.
To love God and love people-- to love God BY loving people.
To serve the poor and work for justice.
To not be satisfied by the status quo.
To stare power in the face and not lose moral ground.
To turn the other cheek and go the extra mile.
To look toward the future, a better future, but one that takes place here on earth, the Kingdom of Heaven incarnate.

My doubts stand. My questions remain. I am comforted by that, and comfortable with it. Faith pleads for the engagement of reason, not necessarily even by people who start from a place of non-belief and try to reason their way into faith. No, I would argue that it is perhaps even more important for people who stand from a position of faith to try to reason themselves out of it, and find a place where they are uncomfortable with the Scripture or church theology or any of these things, and stand up and say, I am not comfortable with this verse, this interpretation, and that is okay. "Come, let us reason together," and let us act and fight for justice together.