Jesus Is Like Chocolate

kid eating chocolate
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/piterquin/72663876/">Claudio Núñez</a>

John 20:19-31

That same Sunday evening the students had locked themselves inside the house and barred the doors. They were afraid of the Jews. Nevertheless, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, “Peace!” Then Jesus showed them his hands and his side, and his students were elated to see him. Jesus said, “Peace! As God sent me, I’m sending you.” Then he blew on them and told them, “Be the wind of God.” If you forgive anyone’s wrongdoing, they will be forgiven. If you don’t they won’t.”

Tom, however, (he’s the one of the twelve everyone called the double) wasn’t there when Jesus came, and when the others told him about it, he said, “I don’t believe you. Not unless I see the nail marks on his hands with my own fingers, and feel his side with my own hand.”

The next week, the students were in the house again, and this time Tom was there. And again, in spite of the doors being shut, Jesus appeared among them and said, “Peace!” Then he said to Tom, Put your fingers here. See my hands. And put your hand here. Feel my side. Don’t remain skeptical. Believe it!”

Tom said, “My God, it is you!”

Then Jesus said, “Seeing is believing indeed! But those who haven’t seen and who still embrace me have it even better.”

Jesus did a lot of other things, too. His students saw it all. But they’re not written down here. What’s included here ought to be enough to convince you that Jesus is the Chosen One. And if you by him, you’ll really be living.

There are two ways to believe something.

First, there is the way we typically think of believing. We believe that a proposition is true. It’s a matter of saying yes or no about something. That it corresponds to a particular sequence of events that is empirically verifiable. It’s a mind thing. That’s the “seeing is believing” part. Tom won’t affirm the fact until he can see it for himself. And why should we blame him? Most rational people would say the same.

But there is a second kind of believing, which has nothing to do with propositions. It’s not about a mental acknowledgment of fact. It’s about orientation. Believing in this second sense, is orienting one’s life toward something that may or may not be a present reality, but which is nevertheless compelling.

An example. Chocolate. In the first sense, I can say yes or no, that chocolate is or isn’t the most delicious flavor on earth. I can base my opinion on the empirical evidence of having myself tasted thousands of different things. In the second sense, though, I can believe in chocolate by orienting my life around it, making everything I do about chocolate. Strive for chocolate. Look forward to savoring chocolate at every opportunity. You can’t argue with me about this kind of believing. It’s the way I live. Ask a kid eating a chocolate bar if she believes in chocolate. The question makes no sense. It’s not something to be believed. It’s something to be eaten.

In this scene, Jesus says that to believe in him in the first sense, to mentally assent to his existence in whatever way your mind is able to come to a favorable conclusion – that’s fine as far as it goes. What’s even better is to reorient your life by him. And for that, you don’t need to have seen anything.

Think About It

thinking, please wait
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/karola/3623768629/in/photostream/">Karola Riegler</a>

1 John 1:1 – 2:2

We announce the origin of things to you. What we heard. What we witnessed with our own eyes. What we examined and touched with our own hands. It’s about life. Life that was revealed, that we’ve seen. We swear to it, and we tell you that life forever with the father was made known to us. And we’re telling you what we’ve seen and heard so you, too, can be together with us. Surely, we’re together with the father and with his son, Jesus. We’re writing this so our joy may be complete.

Here’s the message we got from Jesus and pass on to you:

God is light. There is nothing whatsoever dark about God.

If we say we’re with God while hiding our conduct in the dark, we’re lying. Our actions are false. But if we conduct ourselves in the light full disclosure, we’re together, and Jesus’ blood will take care of whatever’s wrong.

If we say nothing’s wrong, we’re fooling ourselves. We’re lying. If we admit to what is wrong, Jesus’ commitment to fairness will forgive us and make us right again.

If we say there’s nothing wrong, though, we make Jesus out to be a liar. We’ve missed the point.

My little children, I’m writing these things so you won’t continue to mess up. But, if anyone does mess up, we have someone to help us patch things up with God: Jesus. He’s a righteous dude, and he’s laid it all on the line to make things right with us again. And not just for us, but for absolutely everyone.

[See also, previous comments on 1:1-4 (Troubled Community), 1:5-10 (Confession), and 2:1-6 (You Can Do It).]

Anyone who is familiar with 12-step programs such as AA can tell you that the first step to getting your life back on track is admitting that you have a problem.

John’s first letter is about your first step. Life is to be had, and had in abundance and great joy, but first you have to take care of a few problems. Fortunately, says John, Jesus has offered to mentor us so that we can get through the problems and on to life.

With John, it’s a take it or leave it proposition. Here’s an offer. The decision is yours. The help is free, and it’s available for everyone, but you have to want to work the system.

Maybe you think don’t need it, John says. But you’re probably just fooling yourself if you think you can make it on your own.

So think about it.

The Communalists

pen, checks, and bills
Image credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/rmgimages/4882450962/">Ramberg Media Images</a>

Acts 4:32-35

Everyone in the community was unanimous. They considered each other the same as themselves, and nobody counted anything as their own, but as the community’s. Those who had been sent told their witness of the resurrection so convincingly that everyone was inspired to graciousness. So it was that nobody ever went without. Whoever owned land or houses sold them and gave the proceeds to the community. They gave it all to the those who’d been sent, and they, in turn, passed it out according to what needs people had.

Early Christians weren’t communists because they ascribed to an economic theory. They were communist because that was how they made sure everyone’s needs were met. It’s probably more accurate to say they were communalists.

Behind the community’s practice, it’s clear that there are two things going on.

First, there is an agreement that everyone really is equal, and that equality is understood, not in a theoretical “all are endowed by their creator” sense, but as a moral obligation to the other.

Second, there is a convincing witness of the resurrection that inspires graciousness. It’s not enough to simply assent to the idea that “Jesus is risen.” Lots of mean people will say they believe in the resurrection, but they don’t care about anyone but themselves. Not so convincing. A convincing witness to the resurrection is a story that inspires people to live in a resurrected way – to live graciously in relationship with others.

It’s not about the particular economic system of the community. It’s about the moral character of the community. Whatever economic system you go with, the same question applies: Is everyone taken care of according to their need? A community’s budget is a moral document.

Song 133

feet floating on a pool raft
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/titlap/3901537243/">Julien Haler</a>

Psalm 133

It’s so good when people can all just get along!
It’s like taking a long hot soak in the tub
With aromatherapy oils,
Like putting on a robe
And kicking back in your favorite chair.
It’s like the dew on the mountainside
That makes everything green with life.
Life! God’s ultimate blessing,
Life forever!