Audio version author read click here
Here is the unthinkable story. God Himself deigns to clothe Himself in flesh and limits Himself so as not to destroy His beloved humanity by His sheer magnificence. He comes to upend the understanding of how to enjoy peace with God: “I have entered this world to announce a verdict that changes everything. Now those without sight may begin to see, and those who see may become blind.” John 9 He announces a message dripping with possibilities, offering blissful existence for eternity. He comes healing the blind, the lame, even the leprous. He promises to shatter death and releases several who were conquered by it to prove His claim. He speaks words that cause even one of His opponents to say “never has a man spoken like this man”, words that draw faith and surrender in the hearts of many of the hearers. Lives are transformed. Mere external but insincere religious performance is exposed to be the control-centered social domination of a few elites – so liberating for the common person, but a serious threat to the prevailing understanding of God and His ways. There is confusion. Deflection. Dismissal. Rejection. Aggression. Elimination. And replacement. Subtly we replace this Radical with our own concept of deity. Why is that?
It seems that our inner compulsion to worship conflicts with the call of God to “hate” our life so as not to lose it. To put Him first when we are so drowning in self-love. To abandon our precious plans to the will of Another. Jesus lived this out perfectly and called us to follow. But it is terrifying!! Jesus, the One who many today see as the kind side of God, was wildly unpredictable, enigmatic, and radical. Plucking out eyes, cutting off hands, hating father and mother, and yes even your own life?? That is a bit much for those of us who are merely seeking to placate our worship drive. We want something a bit more predictable, tame, sensible. Now, perhaps more than ever, we want a deity who does not embarrass us with culturally incorrect ideologies. God as revealed in the Old Testament leaves us baffled and perplexed on so many levels. He was good to His people and not so good to their enemies. He was so jealous for His people’s attention that He punished them relentlessly for their persistent idolatry. We want God to fit into our conception of good – our theological framework of what God should be. If we are honest we have to admit that the God revealed in the Bible flat out doesn’t fit. He leaves us perplexed by so many questions. Dumbfounded by so many incongruities. The faith that is required doesn’t call us to believe that there is a god – most civilizations historically demonstrated some kind of allegiance to a higher power. In fact a common societal perspective of their god facilitated cohesive community. The leaders of said culture, mere humans, could appeal to a higher authority to insist on laws facilitating their common values and justify the governance of the nation.
But the God Jesus came to reveal transcends societal and political association. His connection is to the Eternal – the God and the kingdom which we only see now in the lives of His followers. He asserts that this seen world is passing away and that participation in the next requires a cataclysmic shift in our life force. Religion is baffled, people are dumbfounded and delighted, and some trust enough to follow. Belonging to Jesus was not safe back in His day, and true discipleship is not safe in ours. He will call us to put our hand to the plow, walk on the water, keeps our eyes on Him rather than the scenery, seek and find a different source of value than what is culturally demanded, and allow Him to choose for us. Not safe. Not predictable. Not success oriented. Not self-affirming. Not popular. Not logical. Idols are looking pretty good right now, aren’t they? Something we can fabricate (mentally) and control.
So, like Bob Dylan said in his brief period of Christian musical expression:
“But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes Indeed
you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody…”
Though that song won him the Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a male in 1979, it seems he found Jesus too unsafe to continue serving. What about us? It is worth taking a few moments out of the limited amount we are allotted to assess the actual focus of our worship? I am not talking about the thing we do for an hour or so on Sundays. I am talking about what consumes our thoughts, our affections, our time and what brings us to outbursts of joyful delight. That’s where our worship is. So I ask again – what or who do you really worship? Is it an idol? If so, let the Son set you free.
Click here for a little music bonus – “Statues” by Remedy Drive