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Following Jesus is Important for Humanity

February 28, 2008 3 comments

When I was in college, there was an Arkansas band that was semi-popular among us college-aged campus ministry people named Nickel and Dime. They had a song that we sang in worship services called “Ultimate Man”. I thought it was a little cheesy, even in the mid to late 90’s, but occasionally I’ll catch myself humming it because I think that deep down I know that Jesus is the ultimate, last and the best man and if I want to connect with whatever it means to be truly human, I’ve got to latch on to Jesus.

I’m going to be up front: I believe the Bible when it says, “So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1.27, TNIV) and “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Gen 1.31a, TNIV). Yes, I believe that God’s creation of humanity was good and God saw it so as well.

Adam and Eve were perfect. God doesn’t make imperfect.

My friend and mentor, Bob Tuttle, sometimes complains that our Calvinist brothers and sisters skip over this and go straight to the fall, the beginning of humanity’s sinful existence. Maybe some do, but I’ve never really noticed. I do find it odd that, if true, anyone would take the original perfection and righteousness of our race out of the equation. Sometimes it seems so obvious to me part of God’s work through Jesus Christ is to make us human again.

Again.

I don’t think as a race we are subhuman, just not fully human. We were created to bear the image of God. Wesley divided this up into three parts: the natural image, the moral image, and the political image. I agree with Wesley that the grace of God prevents humanity from being completely devoid of anything associated with God’s image, we are seriously broken and not fully human. People who are fully human, who are the image bearers of the holy, Triune Creator God, don’t traffic other people in the sex trade. People who are fully human don’t commit genocide, they don’t sell people into slavery, they don’t stand for oppression and bondage. I can only think of one person since the fall that stood against all that is evil and inhuman.

Jesus the Messiah.

At the IMN earlier in the month, I wrote down this sentence and I’m sorry to admit that I forgot who said it (Edit: I remembered it was Alex), but maybe it’s enough to know that it didn’t originate with me. It did, however, resonate with everything I believe about the work of God in the life of the believer through the Holy Spirit.

Following Jesus is important for humanity.

Of course it is. Jesus is more human than anything we’ve ever experienced. Jesus came into this world without any of the advantages of God (Phil 2) and with all the disadvantages we know (Heb 4.15). I have to believe that if Satan didn’t think he could persuade Jesus he would have given up even trying to tempt Jesus (Matt 4). If there wasn’t the possibility that Jesus would stumble, would Satan have tried? Yet Jesus prevailed and throughout the Gospels we find the man. Jesus is the man who, even though sin came into the world through Adam (Romans 5), acted out of righteousness and thus offered the rest of us a gift that Paul calls “justification”.

I prefer to think of it in terms like this: Jesus’ gift not only rescued us from the penalty of sin, it makes us more human. The more we follow Jesus and the more our character takes the shape of Jesus the more human we become. I’m not a great mathematician and I’m not going to put the time into becoming one, but here’s a simple equation for you: Becoming like Jesus = Becoming more human.

That’s part of the reason that sentence Following Jesus is important for humanity reaches straight into the heart of who I am and what I do on behalf of the Kingdom. What more of a demonstration of the love, mercy, grace, judgement of God is there than to execute his will through Jesus followers. They not only preach good news, they are good news. Following Jesus, becoming more human, expresses itself through proclamation and standing against the sex trade, slavery, genocide, oppression, and bondage. As we declare Jesus, crucified and risen, and live as compassionate and just people, the work of God’s Kingdom is being done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Following Jesus is important for humanity. Will you follow Jesus, too?

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Why?

February 28, 2008 4 comments

Why a new blog?

1) For practical reasons: I’m making less money in my new position and need to save more because I’m now also a homeowner. I like WordPress and have used it for the last few years and using a WordPress.com blog is free. Not only that, but as I’ve packed up everything I own during the last few days, I’ve discovered that I’ve had no need to use 90% of the stuff I’ve already boxed up. Even my clothes. It makes sense to simplify and getting rid of extra expenses is one way to simplify. John Wesley, the leader of the movement I still follow used to say “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” It’s good practical advice and I’ll be saving all I can by cutting out my yearly payment for server space and domain name. I don’t live a simple lifestyle yet, but I’m trying to be less attached to stuff and more attached to Jesus.

2) I hope that the move will mark the maturation of my blogging. I’ve been mostly undisciplined and post only when I feel like no one is paying attention. Not only that, but I’ve blogged some really inane stuff in the past which reflects a lot of immaturity not just in life but also in writing. I love writing. I have since I was in junior high school. I’m not likely to ever make money or become famous because of writing but that’s no excuse for not doing it well. And it’s not just an issue of writing well, it’s also a matter of getting over myself. I want to make this a habit for me for a number of reasons, the chief being I need to get over people disagreeing with me.

3) I want to think harder and smarter about what I’m doing, as a United Methodist clergyman, to be a part of the Kingdom work in this world. How am I making the world my parish? Or maybe another way, “How am I making humanity my responsibility?” There are a lot of complex problems in this world and I want to work out what it means to be a follower of Jesus and how that informs my actions in making things right.

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