This is part of a series in which I’m reposting old blog posts to explore my current thinking on the ‘big stuff’. They were first posted in 2011. I’m aiming to write a reflection after each topic commenting on any evolutions since this point in history.
I believe that Jesus was/is the son of God. I believe that he gives us the best idea of what a life lived completely connected to God looks like, and yet at the same time shows us the reality of what a life of faith means. Being the son of God didn’t save him from poverty, from misunderstanding, from loneliness, from betrayal and from savage torture and eventual death. If we take seriously what the gospels tell us, we realise faith isn’t designed to be nice and easy, wrapped up in a consumable package.
I believe that Jesus is God crashing into our everyday reality and letting us know that we are not alone. I believe this is all about heaven touching earth and not retreating into the background but demanding the headlines. Jesus is heaven here and now. The kingdom has come. He launches us in the mission that God has invited us to be part of. He is the messiah…the anointed one, the King who has come to rescue his people.
I believe that Jesus was/is the son of man – in other words that, as the old creeds say, he was fully God and yet fully man. Sometimes we seek to downplay this in our desire to point out the importance of the Christ. We miss the beauty of what this means – that we’re not aspiring to imitate some impossible, untouchable divinity, but a man. A man who was born in a grotty hole in the ground somewhere in an occupied country…a man whose parents were refugees for the first few years of his life. A man who as a boy probably got into all kinds of scrapes and got told off. A man who got angry, who seems to have been captivating and yet lost most of his friends as the going got tough.
When we read about his miracles, about the way in which he taught and lived, we can all too easily allocate this to his divinity. What if these were actually signs of what it means to be fully human? I struggle with this – because it holds us up to a much more challenging standard. It means I can’t shrug my shoulders and say “well, it was ok for him because he was God”…I don’t think we have quite grasped the depths of what this means to us.
I believe in the historical Jesus. The real, actual, the tangible. I’m not sure whether he knew the cross was his end destination from the beginning, or whether it was something that became inevitable because of what he was up to. I believe that he was killed, and that he was brought back to life as the first example of what fully bodily resurrection will look like in the future heaven and earth.
I believe Jesus cannot be claimed by any political tradition – right, middle, left. As much as I want him to be a first century Che I know he wasn’t. But I do know he was radical, revolutionary, dangerous to know. My instinct is that he would spend most of his time outside of the church as we understand it today, and that his teaching about Pharisees would be directed at us more often than we were comfortable.
I believe that at times Jesus is incredibly hard to understand, despite a couple of millennia of trying to interpret his teaching, but then that’s what makes him so compelling. Bonhoeffer talks about ‘costly discipleship’ – part of that cost is being misunderstood, misinterpreted, mocked, being written off as irrelevant. We are enticed to follow despite this cloud of mystery, despite the doubt this might bring – actually embracing the doubt and uncertainty is all part of faith for me.
You’ll get by now that for me faith isn’t about certainty – about everything being simple and easily digestible. The tension, the grey, is where my faith flourishes, where I feel beckoned onwards. The questions about why when I pray in faith, nothing happens. About whilst totally believing in the miraculous I feel strongly at times that we expect God to do stuff that we’re not willing to do anything about ourselves (but I’ll explore that in the next post, about the Spirit).
What I do know is that I want to follow Jesus, to live by his example in life, death and resurrection. I want to be identified as one of his, whatever that costs. I want to challenge the world’s view of Christians and point them to Jesus and say that this is what it’s all about, not what we in the church have made it to be. Maybe another post will explore that in more depth…
Jesus was, is and will always be utterly captivating. His life calls us to follow. He turns our world upside down. Read the gospels. Look at the best of what he’s inspired his people to be. Explore the worst of what the church has done through those lenses. Forgive us for when we’ve got it so, so wrong…even today.
Don’t expect it to all fall into place, for the world to suddenly become understandable. Expect confusion, uncertainty, doubt. Embrace it.Jesus sums it up best when he tells us that faith is all about this: “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and all your strength” and “love your neighbour as you love yourself”. That’s where to start. The rest follows.
Jesus is love personified. Jesus is hope personified. That’s the Jesus I believe in.
So…what have I missed out?