26 December 2009

Magnetic Christ

From the outside looking in, many years ago before I identified myself as a Christian, I recall thinking how very good a person has to be to be a Christian-a true Christian. Knowing myself, although I was attracted to loving God as Creator, I was repelled by the thought of having to live a terribly good life. It sounded bland.
Not that I wasn’t living a good life-and that’s the irony of it. I was pretty good as humans go, and I liked being loving; being loving and giving was addictive, when I actually was giving.
But I was confused. I equated being good with being Christian, although technically I knew that wasn’t the way one was a Christian, but it rattles around in our cultural landscape as a foregone conclusion that one must be "good." (to be religious). Not only that, but to be a really good Christian you needed to be sincere, also, thoroughly earnest, a white-knuckle and dripping earnest goodness and all that...which I wasn't (and still am not).   I also hated the thought that if I really became a serious discple of Christ that I would be stripped of all personality, hobbies and personal perferences (much like joining a yoga camp).
But I wasn't improving. Nor were my acquaintances. They weren’t becoming less selfish, only more. Of course, as I spent more time with them I became more selfish-and I hated it when I realized it. Selfishness is, for a simple and good person like I was, like eating little bit of poison every day: you don’t die right away but you eventually come down with some illness, which kills you. I was in a dilemma.

When I inspected the evidence for myself, I found the Christ of the gospels to be completely different from what I expected. Lewis' analogy was that he was "not tame" is right on the mark. Yes, Christ is humble but He commands respect.
But there is more to Christ. He is also interesting, receptive, and clever. He is not only wise, but also brilliant, funny, entertaining, witty, incisive. Christ has a many-sided personality, and is personally challenging and engaging. (I am leaving aside the miracles, signs and wonders he performed that were both listed and unlisted in the gospels-and those the Spirit of Christ continues to perform to this day.)
Christ of the gospels not only challenges my ill-formed idea of what it means to be his follower, he also challenges my idea of me, of who I can and will be, and my ideas of the world as I’d like to see it. Jesus Christ makes the rest of us look like dullards which we all are, by comparison.
As He demonstrated as a 12 year old boy as He spoke with the most learned adults in His community:
”His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished…as they returned, [but] the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, [then]…sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. …when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him.
after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.”
(Luke 2:41-47 New King James Version)