Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I need a face-lift

It's important to know what things are.  Just as it's important to know who we are as well.

Questions of identity and worth are prevalent for me.  I'm beginning to understand that, for me, significance is one of the driving forces of my life.  Everything I do I run through a grid of significance or insignificance.

Is this a significant (or noble or worthy) action/life/thought?  If so, then let's dive in.  If not, then I'm outta here.

I don't think I'm alone, especially when I'm amongst college students.  I've been asking friends what they think is the most burning question brewing in the minds of college students and without fail they've said two things:

1. Can I find someone with whom I can truly and intimately relate? (Can I find love?  Can I find deep friendships? etc)

2. Will my life serve any purpose?  Does my life have a point?  Will I/we make a difference?

Relationships and significance.  I think this is deeply what we all crave.

Breeze with me through a passage in which Jesus redefines significance.

Mark 8:27   And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him. 

Mark 8:31   And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

This passage follows a strange one in which Jesus heals a man, but has to do it twice.  He heals a blind man, but the blind man needs a second touch from Jesus to be fully able to see.  After that we get into this whole Christ business.

Christ is a strange word.  And contrary to what most people seem to think, it's not Jesus' last name.  It's a job title, and a confusing one at that.

To Jesus' contemporaries, to be the Christ was not saying: "I am the one promised to take away your sins by dying on a cross."  This would've seemed crazy to people, just as it did to Peter.

For first century Jews, the Christ was going to do a few things though, to be sure: He was going to cleanse the temple, he was going to return God's people to prominence (and overthrow the oppressors, Rome, in the process), and most importantly, the Christ would be the true king, David's true heir, and the ruler of Israel.

For Peter to say Jesus was the Christ was not a shorthand way of saying, "You are God" or "You are the second person of the trinity" though he undoubtedly eventually came to realize both.  He was saying, in calling Jesus the Christ, that Jesus was the true ruler of Israel, and the one that would overthrow the tyrannical rule of Rome and finally return glory to God's people.

Jesus refused to accept Peter's understanding of Christ, needing first to give the word a face-lift.  Peter needed a second touch, just like the blind man leading up to this passage.

The Christ was of course the true king, establishing his kingdom, just not in the way Peter and his contemporaries had thought.  The Christ did indeed come to rule Israel, but not in the way Peter thought it would happen; and the Christ absolutely returned God's people to prominence, but in a different way than imagined.  This new way was downward; it was a way of service and sacrifice and mercy and, above all, love.  The king was to be a lamb, and his followers likewise.

I often need the same face-lift when it comes to my understanding of being a Christian.  I am tempted to believe that once I have a personal relationship with God, little else matters.  I incompletely believe that since God and me are together, everything else is secondary.

But everything else is not secondary, and my belief needs a face-lift.  The Christ did not come only to create little cozy relationships between men and God, but to go about establishing his kingdom as well.  A relationship with God is made virtually worthless should we remain apathetic to those whom God loves.  Love for God is empty if love for his plan and heart is not included.

Relationship with God, yes.  Significance in God, yes as well -- and I'm not sure this is emphasized enough.  In his mission we find our own.  In his vocation we work.

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