I grew up in the Christian, main-stream, Evangelical, pop-Christianity, insert your label __(here)___ church. So I feel like it goes without saying that most of the things that I could be critical of about Christianity, I have probably held as my view point at one time or another. Now my ego would love to chalk it up to the fact that I was young and impressionable when I practiced my faith in a way that was less-than thoughtful, but the reality is that we should all take responsibility for the inconsistency between our beliefs and our practice.
The thing that has really bugged me in the last week is this sense that, a lot of times, Christians who are thinkers get wrapped up in thinking about God and how exactly God is and forget that we were given a clear picture of him in Jesus (John 14:7-11).
Now, some might like to debate the extent to which Jesus intended when he said "If you've seen me, then you've seen the Father" but I'd like to suggest that he meant it in a similar way that I would speak of myself in relation to my earthly father. That is, I am my father's son and while we are ontologically and really different persons, we are both of the same bloodline and hold the same values and believe the same thing (now this is a limited analogy since my father and I have some variance on beliefs; for Jesus, however, he and the Father have the same point of view; that is, they are both all-knowing. So we can trust that they in their wisdom have drawn the same conclusions about reality and act/believe the same things).
So if Jesus says more or less "I am the clearest picture that any of you ever have or ever will get of God", then I feel like we can trust him on this if we're believers in Christ. Now, being a philosopher/theologian myself, I know how easy it is to get caught up in my theories and debates about things regarding the nature of God (i.e. how exhaustive is God's foreknowledge? To what extent does he grant us free-will? How does salvation work? Does prayer work? etc.) without acknowledging the fact that Jesus is God. I feel like I should re-emphasize that last bit:
Jesus Is God
Now the point may seem moot among Christians, but so often we don't act like it. More specifically, we don't act like God is Jesus. We get this picture of an old man scowling in the sky when we think of God or the Father (some of this may be due to our experiences with our earthly fathers) and then we think of this buddy-Jesus, cuddly-Jesus or Jesus-my-homeboy. The reality is that Jesus was something of a rascal and, if not God, was no kind of good man. But we Christians proclaim him God incarnate. Let's give that some weight.
I'm all for people theorizing about how God functions in his relationship with humans, but I get nervous when people emphasize points that Jesus didn't. We lose our Christocentric faith in exchange for a well-thought out conclusion.
I was recently at a small group meeting in which, in discussion, I said something to the effect of "well, lets remember that the way that Jesus did evangelism was through relationships, so we shouldn't be afraid to come close to atheists". Immediately, the response from the whole group was something to the effect of "yes, but Jesus called people out about their sin!" (everyone phrased it in their own way, of course).
Now, my point isn't that I don't think Jesus "called people out", but that Jesus led with love. The fact that he has the authority of God aside, Jesus never asked people why they were demon possessed. He never ridiculed the Roman centurion for letting his child get sick. He just loved them. So why should we act like we have any kind of authority to hold people's beliefs or actions against them? Without going on a Scripture-slinging-frenzy, I feel like the Bible is pretty clear throughout that judgement is not our responsibility. Even more clearly, it states that love IS our responsibility. Can we ignore this?
I submit that the reason that we tend to ignore this is because we latch on to this idea of God that requires a perfect-behaving kind of righteousness instead of the kind of righteousness that comes from Jesus and is not sourced in our actions. The Kingdoms of this world are concerned with our behavior; the Kingdom of God is concerned with our hearts. Let's not try and understand God or behave in such a way that is essentially by-passing Jesus in order to get to some philosophical picture of God because it makes sense. Most of what Jesus did doesn't make sense; his Kingdom is upside down from our fallen understanding. It's hard, but it's the way of the cross; the way of Jesus.
Don't step around Jesus