My heart was struck sick this morning by an article in our local paper that was generated by those churchmen desperately trying to resurrect the freedom of religious expression now lost though the absence of the church in local governance scenarios. While we were distracted by Federal shenanigans, the individual freedoms we once took for granted in America went unprotected by the local congregations in our towns. We have essentially lost our schools and communities to other than Christian agendas and now the churches, a little too late and far too religious, are reacting in a crisis mode!
The statement made in the editorial was that we as a nation might once again learn to “fear God and love Jesus.” This statement seems quite benign at first and yet it is far more telling than we think in terms of our understanding of the Trinity.
Is God to be approached in a different way than Jesus, or is that in reality a throw back to the days of the law? Is God the terrible, tyrant that pounds us with the Law, while Jesus appears as the gentle lamb, who plays with children and helps old ladies across the street?
In fact, if this is all we have to offer, no wonder we are losing ground to those even more steeped in laws that cause extremist to offer themselves bodily to terrorist movements in our day!
Christ and God are one in Spirit and that same Spirit of the Son dwells in us by His grace! Jesus was God become flesh! He even reinforces this with His disciples as he presses in, when Phillip requests that Jesus show them the Father. “How long must I be with you…? “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” The initial quote from John 14:9 should lay to rest the anxiety that seems to surround both saint and sinner today.
The necessity of God becoming flesh through His Son, Christ Jesus, was a huge statement against the legalism that had morphed out of the law, necessary I believe, only to frustrate us to grace, once Christ had come among us (Gal. 3:23-25). We have no capacity alone to live up to God’s holiness, yet God in love reached out to us, even became sin for us; following to the letter, the laws of sacrifice that we might in no way miss His generous love. We are now offered direct access to Him through grace by virtue of the righteousness imputed to us by the Christ.
After the children of Israel found themselves in Egypt, overly accustomed to a life of fear and depravity…the ultimate course of sin, God birthed a leader in Moses and established covenants to set boundaries on this now depleted but well loved people. The Ten Commandments were not overly intrusive but rational guideposts for a moral life, more about protecting His beloved, than limiting their access to the Father. Yet, instead of using those statutes and the added ceremonies of cleansing brought along side the law as grace for those who disobeyed, the sinful nature of this fallen race added law upon law until a religious order developed that served little purpose. In fact, it may have created such a beauracratic morass among the priesthood that serious disorder had occurred within the Temples by the birth of Christ. “My house was meant for a house of prayer, but now you have made it a den of thieves” if I may paraphrase Christ’s words.
That’s what religion does, it taints the promises of God…so have many of the churches in our day, tainted the attractiveness of Christianity in our land, a land intended for promise, opportunity and freedom for all people.
Not only does religion distract from a personal relationship with the God who loves sinners, it diminishes the attractiveness of that God. Jesus caused both the destitute and the demoniac to cry out for mercy in hope! Jesus did nothing that His Father did not instruct Him to do. He was God in the flesh. God is the same as that Lion-Lamb persona who ate fish with fishermen and set prostitutes and tax collectors free. He is terrible in power, yet awesome in tenderness.
Awe and wonder are appropriate for both God and Christ. Fear as prescribed by my fundamentalist friends is the very thing Christ came to diminish. He has provided for us through the righteousness of Himself and through the habitation of His Spirit, everything necessary to fully participate in the Kingdom of God, in power, in love and with a sound mind! (II Timothy 1:7).