Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"The empty Jesus promise"

"For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins." - 2 Peter 1:9

"The empty Jesus promise."

Could there be such a thing?  I think so.  It's what I've begun to call so many sermons, messages, sayings and teachings  we pass around that are simply too simplistic, too "spiritual" (in the bad sense of the term) and too trite to connect to my personal brokenness and then the brokenness of the world around me.

It could be something as simple as someone saying "all things work together for the good..." when I'm struggling with depression.  Or it might be a sermon that spends 90% of it's time focusing on prohibition and 10% on grace.  Or it might be the message of Jesus, the cross and the resurrection so time worn in out presentations ("our" being key) that we just think, "Blah, I've heard that before."

Now a note of caution:  Often Jesus seems like an empty promise because we're not really experiencing him.  And I'll admit, this is definitely part of what I struggle with all the time, though I experience him all the time as well (it's weird).

But I think there's something deeper going on.  The Jesus we get on a Sunday morning, or when we flip on the radio or when talking with friends is often kind of plastic.  He's been used.  And the vision we get of him is tired.

For me, I think it might have something to do with living in the west, where Jesus is literally turned into plastic (as I type there's a very blonde plastic one not more than 20 yards from me in the office. He's even in a glass case!  But to give my co-workers credit, it's got to be a joke).   Then there's the problem that God seems ever-so-silent here, so we messengers of the gospel scramble all the more to make our presentations more compelling and more realistic, all the while barely believing in them ourselves.

This "empty Jesus promise" is the opposite of reality.  We live in a time when Jesus is king.  We live in a time when, no matter how quiet God seems, he's coming.  Perhaps in America, we're experiencing the long winter in Narnia.  Or perhaps it's just all the cotton stuffing in our ears that keeps us from hearing the music of Jesus.  Whatever it is, I know we've become blind to what we actually have in Jesus.

And then there's right wing American "Christian" politics, American mainstream evangelicalism and other stuff that I could write about for ages, trying to understand why it leads to our plastic Jesus-es and "empty Jesus promises."

My pastor-friend talked on the gospel this sunday, emphasizing how we just don't get it so often.  We don't get the furious grace of how we our favored by God in Jesus.  We don't get that there's never a time to move on from the gospel.  We don't get how the gospel itself is never simplistic, plastic, tired or worn out.

As I've emphasized so much in this blog, the gospel is always real and always new.  It's good news that is on the front page of our lives every single morning.  And if it feels empty, something may not simply be wrong with us, but what we've done to it.