Scandal for the Ages   1 comment

I almost made it through the season without encountering any Jesus resistance and that would have been such a nice accomplishment. Unfortunately, I had two incidents since Thanksgiving and the second one, last night, just made me feel the need to respond without yelling at someone in a parking lot.

Image result for image of nativityThe first, which is a repeat, is the neighbor who brings a petition around every year to ask people to protest another neighbor who puts out a lighted Nativity scene every Christmas. It is large and lighted, but they turn it off at 10 pm and it isn’t even on my block, so … “it neither picks my pocket or breaks my leg.” I never sign the petition and I think not many others do because the homeowner is still putting the Nativity scene out. If I ever see someone outside of the house when I’m out walking, I’ll ask them, but … “it neither picks my pocket or breaks my leg”, so I don’t really care.

Then last night in the grocery store parking lot (dang the unusually warm weather that made this possible) a group of people were accosting shoppers and trying to talk them out of the whole idea of Christmas. I was trying to buy ingredients for a birthday dinner. Get out of my way, please!

There is something about Christmas that provokes dissent from people who don’t want Christian symbols displayed where they can see them, particularly not on public property or … (gasp) … sung by children in public schools. While I find the overlording of their beliefs on those of us who do not agree annoying, I don’t think it rises to the level of a “hate” crime against Christians … despite the fact that, if it were directed at people of color, it would indeed be considered a “hate” crime. Some conservative commentators disagree with me, but I will point out that there are many parts of the world (Syria, Iran, Sudan, China, and others) Christians really are being persecuted and sometimes even killed for their beliefs. What is going on in America’s symbolic opposition to Christianity is something different.

Can we be honest about Christ and Christianity for a moment, please?

Jesus Christ was and remains a controversial figure. The natural reaction to Christ is to reject Him. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to us. He said people would reject Him — and reject us because of our association with Him.  In fact, when Jesus was taken to the Temple as an infant, Simeon prophesied that He would be a center of contention. Later Jesus predicted His own death and told His followers they must expect persecution too.

Let’s remember, His bitterest enemies weren’t atheists. They were the most religious men of His age, the Pharisees, who considered His claims blasphemous.

Our mistake in modern Western culture is to boil the gospel down to preaching on the need to be nice. Jesus wasn’t all that nice, folks. While He performed miracles of love and mercy, He also warned of eternal damnation, attacked and insulted the Pharisees, and could rebuke even people who adored Him in words that would make most of us today cringe if it weren’t in the Bible. At every step of His ministry, He made enemies and brought His crucifixion closer.

To many in His day, Jesus was a threat and He remains one today in many circles. We honor Him more by acknowledging His explosive presence than by making Him a mere symbol of nice manners. The Romans used crucifixion only against people they considered to be dangerous and society-disrupting. People weren’t crucified for being nice.

Jesus understood what He was doing when He said “I and the Father are one” and “Nobody comes to the Father except through Me.” Nobody had ever made such claims before. It enraged pious Pharisees and baffled His own disciples at the same time. After feeding thousands with the miraculous loaves and fishes, He announced that He Himself was “the bread of life” and unless you ate His flesh and drank His blood, you have no life in you.

That audacious teaching was too much. It cost Him many of His disciples on the spot. He didn’t try to coax them back by explaining that He was only speaking figuratively. There was nothing figurative about His language. He was foretelling the Lord’s Supper.

At virtually every step of His ministry, Jesus accompanied His words with miracles. Remarkably, His enemies disputed the words rather than the miracles. There was no doubt about the wonders He performed. He often performed them in front of large crowds. It was the meaning of His miracles that was controversial.

The blind saw, the deaf heard, cripples walked, lepers were healed. Where did He get the power to do these things? From God or the devil? He used the miracles to certify His power to forgive sins, the claim His critics first found outrageous.

His claims still reverberate. The Gospels attest the total coherence of His mission, the perfect harmony between His words and His deeds, even the careful order of His progressive self-disclosure. Few historians of any note argue that Jesus didn’t exist in history or even that the Resurrection didn’t happen. Too many people saw Jesus after He resurrected for it to be hoax. The honest historians admit that while the less honest ones try to develop theories of explanation that make no sense.

Jesus’ modern enemies, many of them claiming to be Christians, don’t try to disprove the miracles either. They simply assume He never performed them. Some of them assume He never spoke many of the words the Gospels record Him as saying.

I’ve never been able to get my mind around that skepticism. I believed it only until I actually read the gospels. The poet Tennyson remarked that Christ’s greatest miracle was His personality. Could anyone else — the four authors of the Gospels, for example — have made Him up, and put such resonant words in His mouth?

Such a strong and unique personality could only meet with a powerful resistance. This is why Christians shouldn’t resent the natural resistance of those who refuse to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Yeah, they’re attempting to prove Christ didn’t exist or has no power over them. Yet, in their own confused way, those people are upholding Jesus’ very testimony that He would be a scandal to those who thought themselves wise. Their resistance would prove how foolish they really were.

So, in a way, the anti-Christians are acting as servants of God.

Posted December 21, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

Tagged with , , ,

One response to “Scandal for the Ages

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  1. Reblogged this on Ad Infinite-item and commented:
    Again, truth is not relative. It is self-existent…and a scandal to some.

    Like

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