What If God Were One of Us?

sunrise with halo effect
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/h-k-d/3421452549/">Hartwig HKD</a>

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Even if our story about Jesus is covered up, it’s only hidden from those who are doomed. For them, the unbelievers, the god of earthly preoccupations has closed their minds off from the wonderful light of Jesus’ story – indeed from God. We’re not telling our story. We’re telling the story of Jesus, our leader, and we are just slaves in his service. The same God who said, “Let light shine in the darkness,” is the same God who enlightens our hearts, so that we can enlighten others with the knowledge of God we have because of Jesus.

These verses are part of Paul’s ongoing defense against accusations that he’s not really concerned so much with the gospel as with his own reputation. Accusations that were probably laced with a grain of truth. Or, perhaps it was the fallout of his failed attempt to be all things to all people.

In any case, Paul’s story hangs on his being able to make the case that his ideas of what the church should be are synonymous with Jesus’ idea about what the movement should be. And, like any case where a movement has become an institution, there are some resemblances, but also some significant dissociations.

Paul’s problem is essentially the same as our problem. There is Jesus, and there is the church. All these centuries later, Jesus is still a popular figure. Even sneering atheists like Bill Mahar quote Jesus with admiration. Not so much the church, though. To be fair, Jesus is probably much more popular now than he was when he was alive. Jesus made a lot of “good churchgoing people” angry enough to crucify him. It’s easier to idolize someone who’s dead and gone. And that’s exactly what we’ve done: we’ve idolized him, cast him each in our own image.

Maybe we’d be better off to let Jesus be Jesus rather than try to make him be the imperial or institutional ego. What if he was really just an ordinary guy trying to fix a hopelessly broken system and help as many people as he could along the way? Wouldn’t that be enlightening?

Choose Happiness

woman holding book and robot doll
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/missrogue/457911556/">Tara Hunt</a>

1 John 2:7-11

Dearest friends, what I’m writing to you isn’t anything new. It’s the same instruction you’ve always had. It’s the same idea you’ve heard before. Or, maybe it is a new instruction, but it’s nevertheless the truth: true for him, true for you. The night is over, and the true dawn is already breaking. Whoever says, “I’m enlightened,” but hates a brother or sister, isn’t. They’re in the dark. People leading enlightened lives love. Such people won’t trip you up. But a hater is in the dark. Haters live in the dark, blinded and lost.

Someone once said that there are two kinds of people: there are the kind of people who divide people into two kinds of people, and there’s everybody else.

John is the first kind. Chances are we’ve all had some experience in both camps, as lovers and haters. One of the complicated aspects of being human is that people have the capacity for both. But, it may be possible to discern that people are bent or predisposed toward one direction or the other. And some cases are more clear than others.

In the final analysis, though, lovers win. Haters can make lovers’ lives miserable for a time, even a long time. But if you’re really a lover, you’ll find things to love in spite of the haters, and the joy that comes with loving is its own reward. And since it comes from within, the haters can’t ever really take it away.

But the closest haters can come to joy is a passing glee that needs constantly to be regenerated from the outside. The only laughter, the kind that comes at someone else’s expense. Which is why, no matter how much stuff some folks collect, no matter how obliging the people around them, or how great their empire, they’re still dissatisfied, restless, and mean.

Enlightenment is a choice. Happiness is a choice. They are both consequences of a choice one makes (and making it is a continuous act) about how to dispose your heart.