Years ago, I was stopped at a redlight, reading the bumper stickers on the car in front of me. One of them read, “Honk if you love Jesus!” I happily, impulsively honked. And then observed the enthusiastically proffered middle finger of the motorist ahead of me. “Oh,” I thought, “must not be your car.”
Today I visited Lynn, who also encouraged me to honk if I love Jesus. Sorta. She offered a meme, The Jesus Meme, which is “five things I dig about Jesus.” I really like what Lynn did with it, and I decided to give it a try.
1. He speaks to people in their own language. Not Aramaic. I mean, he met people where they were. If you were a farmer, he told you stories about farming. If you were a tax collector, he used money stories. A fisherman, he told you about fishing. He exemplified my Mom’s teaching, “You treat the janitor the same as the governor.” He spoke to people who were “beneath” him. Because he knew they weren’t. And he wasn’t afraid to confront people “above” him. Because there’s no such person. He showed us how to do these things. God, I love that man.
2. He is steadfast. As a child growing up in an often chaotic environment, this knowledge was one of the things that made me decide to stick to him like glue. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). No need for anyone to wonder what kind of mood he’s in, whether he’s been drinking, whether he’s mad at me today. Steady. Like a rock.
3. He understands what we’re going through. This is especially meaningful to me as I continue to endure WTF Disease. I haven’t yet found another human who knows what all these various bizarre symptoms feel like. But the one who is both creator and human being, would know (Hebrews 2:14-18, 4:14-16). That comforts me. I’m not alone.
4. Jesus loves me, this I know. I dig that I am unconditionally loved. Humans talk about this, but I don’t believe we can pull it off. Oh, we try. And if we really do try, we can manage it a good percentage of the time. But not always. Even parental love, which probably comes closest, is sometimes qualified with the knowledge that if that little (or big) miscreant weren’t our own flesh and blood, he or she would sorely test our love ability. There’s a condition — you’re my kin. It does me immeasurable good to be loved when I am at my most unlovable. Which, frankly, is most of the time, lately.
Some people talk about Jesus dying — being beaten, spat on, crucified, as evidence of his love. All the things that were depicted in Mel Gibson’s movie (during much of which I buried my face in Jif’s shoulder; I’m not interested in seeing the violence). For some people, that is sufficient evidence of this extraordinary, supernatural kind of love. Not for me. Frankly, others have suffered, and do suffer, worse physical afflictions. Some even voluntarily, in the name of love. No, for me, what really made it sink in, what he did for me, was a sermon that I heard when I was eleven years old. I have never heard it presented in quite the same way since. But here’s the gist of it: When Christ allowed himself to be killed to pay for the sins of mankind, he took on himself, into himself, those sins. Think of the worst you can think of. Genocides, child abuse . . . the worst. He took all of that onto himself, in our place. And not only those acts. But also the shame that accompanies such acts. And all the suffering that ripples out for generations to come, from such acts. And all the pain that preceded, that set in motion, that created beings who would perpetrate such acts. He became all of that (2 Corinthians 5:21) so that we can be reconciled to a perfect, holy God. For me, it is that unimaginable psychic suffering, soul suffering, that he endured, that speaks much louder of love than any level of physical torture could speak. I choose to believe it happened the way I’ve read that it happened. And that it meant what that sermon so long ago said that it meant. Greater love has no one, before or since (John 15:12-13) .
5. He is mysterious. Years ago, when LG was in preschool, I invited the children of one of the moms I had befriended, to attend Vacation Bible School with LG. Over the years, we have invited children of various religions and none at all to attend VBS with us. But that particular year, I admit, I was making an assumption about the children we were inviting. The father had a very German name, and the mother had a very Irish name, and I assumed they were Christian. What’s more, I assumed either Lutheran or Roman Catholic. I was wrong. She declined my invitation, saying that she didn’t want her children to learn the fairy tale of God. She and her husband had decided to be, and raise their children as, atheists, and they wanted no interference with their plan. I confessed to, and apologized for, my assumption. And she allowed that actually, I was right, in terms of how they’d been raised: Lutheran and Roman Catholic. But she said that in college, her husband had done exhaustive intellectual research which led him to the absolute knowledge that God does not exist. Alrighty, then.
What I didn’t say to her, but what I will say now, is . . . that doesn’t work. I am all in favor of intellectual research. In favor of critical thinking. Of skepticism, even. But applying the powers of the intellect to matters of the soul . . . that will always fall short. To me, that is comparable to the difference between understanding the chemical composition of chocolate, and actually feeling that chocolate melt in your mouth, tasting the sweet, the bitter, the creamy. Even if you can recite the chemical composition backwards and forwards, you don’t know chocolate through the intellect. It doesn’t compute. At least, you don’t know it in its entirety. Another example: you can intellectually explore the act of jumping into a clear lake on a hot day. You can understand the physics of how you get there — the trajectory of the jump, the force required to overcome gravity on your way there . . . and you can understand the physiological, biological changes of the various anatomical systems as your body goes from hot to cool, dry to wet. That’s all good. But it’s not the same as knowing what it’s like to jump into a cool lake on a hot day. You’ve used the wrong tools, or at least, lesser tools, if you’re trying to really know that experience. God — Jesus — can be understood through the intellect. But that’s not how we’re made. God is spirit. Meant to be experienced and understood spiritually. Through faith. Faith is the method through which we best know God. Certainly we should use the other methods — intellect, emotion, whatever you choose — but you haven’t fully experienced God without doing so via your spirit. Your soul. That’s what I believe.
Perhaps this is as good (or bad) a place as any to say something that I often think when I see comments from those who don’t believe. Very, very often, since I began blogging, I’ll see people comment on the site of a “believer,” and say something like, “I wish I had faith like you do,” or “I wish I believed in something like you do…” And I think, “Just do it.” Let me explain. Some people believe in God (as a Christian, I believe in the mystery of the Trinity — God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are One) because they “came to believe.” That is, a series of life experiences, perhaps even some mystical or miraculous experiences, led them to believe. Many more people, though, choose to believe. They decide to believe. There really is no wishing required. If you want to do it, do it. It is a choice. A decision. I do believe that when people make that decision, it is as a result of the Holy Spirit inviting them. And that can happen in more ways than I can imagine. But bottom line, it’s a choice that we have the power and ability and freedom to make. Or not. If you’re wondering whether it’s for you, I would suggest a test. For a week, behave as though you do believe. See how that works for you.
I don’t feel, never have felt, compelled to try to persuade anyone else to believe what I believe. I’ve never spoken as explicitly on this blog, of (some of) what I believe, as I am speaking here today. And it’s fine by me if you don’t agree with a word of it. That’s between you and God. Or just between you and yourself.
Anyone (religious, not, whatever) is welcome to do the meme. Or leave in the comments here what, if anything, you “dig” about Jesus.
And with that, I’m outta here. I have an opportunity (read “invitation requiring very little $”) to visit a state I’ve never visited before, staying in a friend’s 200-year-old cottage for the coming week, so I am doing my darnedest to get me and the fam together to go and do just that. Hope to leave some time over the weekend. The place is not near any of you, to my knowledge, or I would have told you. Indeed, I don’t think I have ever seen the state represented in my sitemeter stats. So when I get back, I think I’ll post some pictures so you can guess where we were. Won’t that be FUN? (Shut up.) And the handful of you whom I’ve told where I’m going, “Shhh!”