Get It?

girl wearing a paper hat
Photo credit: <a href="">David Urbanke</a>

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

The point of the cross is totally lost on dying people. But it’s God’s power for those of us who are rescued by it. The writings say:

I’ll unhinge the wisdom of the wise,
I’ll outsmart the knowledge of the know-it-alls.

Where’s the smartypants? Where’s the scholar? Where’s the politician? Hasn’t God made fools of them all? God’s wisdom is past the reach of human wisdom. Instead, God decided to rescue those who embrace our foolish story. Jews want to see signs. Greeks long for wisdom. What we have is Jesus, on the cross – which Jews think is revolting, and pagans think is idiocy. Nevertheless, for everyone who’s called to him, regardless of ethnicity, Jesus is God’s power and wisdom. God’s idiocy is wiser than people’s wisdom. God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

There will always be some people who just don’t “get it.” They’re dying because they don’t get it. For whatever reason, they simply can’t figure out what the crucifixion is about. A story about the superhero that gets killed by the bad guys isn’t going to have a very good run in Hollywood. A savior who gives up without a fight doesn’t make sense to people who see the world in terms of political and economic power.

Most of the theology that has accumulated around the cross, particularly Paul’s construction of substitutionary atonement, really doesn’t make sense. Even so, the power of non-violent resistance continues to stymie those addicted to other kinds of coercion all around the world today. There are some people who just don’t “get” what modern practitioners of the way of the cross (Ghandi, and Dr. Martin Luther Kind Jr., for example) did.

The beauty of it is, as Paul says, that it’s available to anyone and everyone. It’s not culturally, ethnically, or even religiously dependent. You don’t need to be the smartest, or the slickest. You just have to get it.

Got it?

Life on the Line

dandilion seed taking off
Photo credit: <a href="">Neal Fowler</a>

1 John 4:7-12

Dearest friends, let’s love each other because love is godlike. Whoever loves is a child of God and knows God. Whoever doesn’t love has no idea about God. God is love.

We know God is love because God sent Jesus into the world. With him, real life is possible. We didn’t love God first. God loves us first and sent Jesus. Jesus, the one in whom wrong is righted.

Dearest friends, since God loves us so much, we should love each other. Nobody has seen God. But if we love each other, we can see God’s life and love in each other.

The Greek word hilasmon appears only here in the New Testament. On it’s own, it means literally, “the making one.” In the Greek version of the Hebrew scriptures, though it came to be used for the “mercy seat,” the place where God sat, in the temple, over of the arc of the covenant. As such, it was the place where sacrifices were made. So many translations render it, “propitiation” or “atoning sacrifice.” The point, though, is not the method. The point is the result, setting people right again after they’d gone wrong. It’s the place where wrong is righted. In the Hebrew covenantal law the method was blood sacrifice. In the New Testament it’s Jesus.

If Jesus is the method for setting people right, then John’s bracketing this central affirmation between pleas that people who follow Jesus ought to love one another makes sense. Love for one another becomes the real care that is willing to go out of the way for, even to put one’s own life on the line for, the sake of others. In John’s tradition, Jesus did this freely (John 10:18). Now, John commends the same self-sacrificial action to those who want to follow Jesus.

Indeed, the re-enactment of Jesus’ life, putting your life on the line for the sake of others, is the only way people can have any idea what the New Testament understanding of God is about. Putting your life on the line for the sake of others is still how wrong is righted.

You Can Do It

Jesus van
Photo credit: <a href="">Marshall Astor</a>

1 John 2:1-6

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.

Here’s how to be sure you know Jesus: do what he says. Whoever says, “I know Jesus,” but doesn’t do what he says is lying. That person is faking his or her religion. But whoever is doing what Jesus says is really, truly ok with God. So, if you want to know how to be with Jesus, and whoever wants to say “I’m with Jesus,” – just do as he did.

It’s just that simple.

It doesn’t matter what your theology is. It doesn’t matter what you call yourself. Either you’re doing what Jesus did. Or you’re not.

And absolutely anyone can do what Jesus did. Jesus put it all on the line to prove it. If a nobody from the dirt-poor classes in an occupied territory can do it, certainly you can. You, who are sitting there reading this with more technological power in your smartphone than what was originally installed on the space shuttle.

Surely, you can do it. Surely, you can put yourself on the line like Jesus did. To participate in healing the nations (starting with your own nation) and making the world’s people free.

And if you do, John’s letter says, you’ll be alright with God. It’s just that simple.

[Bonus: Here’s a little song to help you get going with it.]