Jesus Lives – In You!

two hands connected by a blade of grass
Photo credit: <a href="">LifeSupercharger</a>

1 Peter 3:18-22

Jesus himself, though righteous, once suffered because of wrongdoing, for all of us wrongdoers. He did it so you’d be able to keep company with God. Jesus was executed like any human, but his spirit lives on. That spirit proclaimed release to imprisoned spirits, spirits that were insubordinate back in Noah’s time.  That’s when God bided time while Noah built the ark in which only 8 people survived the flood. Now, baptism is like that. It doesn’t just get your body clean. It’s a good-faith down payment commitment that you’ll live in that same resurrection spirit as Jesus, who has reached the goal and is waiting with God, who now commands angels and all the powers that be.

This is another of those passages that is often assumed to be a prooftext for “transactional redemption.” It’s only because it’s been read for so long in this way that it appears so. Jesus’ suffering “for us” doesn’t require a transactional reading. It could just as easily lead to an exemplary redemption (which is also in the early background of Christian theology).

The point, in any case, is that Jesus’ spirit lives on. (Peter doesn’t seem to know anything about Paul’s resurrection of the body.) The spirit of Jesus lives on, both in the metaphysical realm of heaven, and in the real here-and-now realm of people who have been baptized – who have made a commitment – to live and die as he lived and died. Inasmuch as Jesus’ followers continue to make and keep that commitment, in spite of the very real suffering that is the consequence of such a life, Jesus spirit lives on. Indeed, Peter and the early Christians would have said that this, as much as any Easter event, is the meaning of Resurrection.

Corinth’s “Sex Issue”

woman and man
Photo credit: <a href="">Indi Samarajiva</a>

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Even legal habits can be addicting. Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food – but those who live to consume will be consumed. Your body isn’t intended for illicit sex. It’s for Jesus. And Jesus is for your body. God raised Jesus, and God will raise us by that same power.

You know that your bodies are components of Jesus, don’t you? So would I defile Jesus’ body parts by having sex with any whore I can find? Hell no! You know that when you have sex with a whore you become one with her, don’t you? Remember Genesis? “The two shall become one flesh.” But if you’re part of Jesus, you’ve got Jesus’ same spirit. Avoid illicit sex. Every wrong anyone can commit is done externally, except sex. People who have illicit sex do wrong to their own bodies. Don’t you know your body is a holy spiritual temple? Once you have God’s spirit you belong to God, not to yourself. You’ve been bought with cash, so treat your bodies like God’s property.

Paul has a reputation for being a prude. It’s probably well deserved. But if Paul was a prude, the church in Corinth had an issue with illicit sex. Neither of them was dealing with it very well.

Neither of them really gets beyond the view of people as objects. And especially women as objects. (Paul is addressing the men at Corinth.) It doesn’t really matter whether the illicit sex the Corinthians were engaging in was part of other pagan cults that were on the scene. What matters is that they were buying people with cash. And inasmuch as they were participating in the dehumanization of people, they were cut off from Jesus, whose whole aim was precisely the opposite: to re-humanize people who had been objectified.

But Paul applies a theology to the situation in which God engages in the same behavior, buying and paying for people. Paul is too concerned for the purity of Jesus’ body to consider that hanging around with prostitutes and sinners never seemed to bother Jesus himself. Paul is too upset about the whores polluting his church to care for them as the very people Jesus came to re-integrate into the body of humanity.

Thanks to Paul, much of the church still has a sex issue. And the problem is still in recognizing that the sin is not in contamination transmitted by touch or even by the exchange of bodily fluids. It’s still a problem about getting past a theology of transactional redemption that treats people as objects to be bought, paid for, and used.

Party at Sunrise

Photo credit: <a href="">Stephen Heron</a>

Isaiah 9:2-7

People who were groping in the dark
Have been enlightened.
Dawn has broken
For those who were living in the night.

You have made the nation great,
You have heightened the nation’s joy,
They rejoice in your presence,
Like the revelry when the harvest is in,
Like when people are looting with gusto what’s left behind .

For the weight of their burdens
And the chains that bound them
And the night-sticks of their oppressors
Have been broken as on V-J Day.
All the boots of the marching soldiers
And all the bloody battle fatigues
Shall be burned as bonfire kindling.

For a child has been born
A son given
Who will be the one in command.
We’ll call him:
An amazing adviser, a powerful God,
Forever our founder, a peaceful ruler.
His empire will extend throughout the world
And finally bring a lasting peace.
He will restore David’s dynasty and empire,
And will administer it fairly and for the good,
So that it will never fall again.

The passion of God will make it happen.

Picture, if you will, the scenes you’ve seen of looters running from smashed storefronts, their faces lit with glee.

Picture the faces of inmates as they emerge from their cells in the midst of a mass jailbreak.

Picture the faces of victorious college students after a football game tossing the dorm furniture onto a huge bonfire.

Picture the faces of soldiers returning home to embrace their children.

Picture the Bacchus revelry of mardi gras or carnaval.

Picture the celebrations in the streets of Egypt and Libya earlier this year when people were celebrating their liberation from years under oppressive dictators.

Picture a party in celebration of the birth of a child.

Put it all together into a wild and jubilant celebration that in it’s wildness is just a little scary, the way in the recesses of your mind you begin to think, “Can this much celebration really be good? Or safe?”

That’s what Isaiah is saying it will be like when God makes it happen.

What happen?

Redemption. Resurrection. Freedom. Peace.

Of course all of these things will be the end of the world as we know it. And of course, none of these things is safe.

Go ahead, Isaiah says. Bring it.

Just Because It’s Legal Doesn’t Make It Right

couple sculpture
Photo credit: Daquella Manera

Mark 10:1-9

He left there and went back to eastern Judea. Again the crowds gathered around him, and he began teaching them, as usual.

Some legalists came and to test him asked, “Is it legal for a man to divorce his wife?”

He answered, “What did Moses say about it?”

“Moses said a man can divorce his wife by writing a note to leave.”

So Jesus said, “Yes, he said that because of your callous indifference. But the prior law is that since, “God made them male and female, and therefore a man leaves his parents to be joined to his wife: the two are one entity. Because they’re no longer two but have become one entity, what God has created, a man shouldn’t destroy.”

This is a matter of people wanting self justification, and legal cover, for something they know is wrong without having to ask. And Jesus doesn’t play that game.

Jesus doesn’t deny that the statute is there, or that it shouldn’t ever be used. But Jesus is clear: it’s there because something has gone terribly wrong. And anyone who has been or is currently going through a divorce can tell you that it’s true. Something went wrong. And it has to do with callous indifference, or hardheartedness, somewhere in the picture. Could be mostly one partner, or the other, or both. But there it is.

The statute is meant as an emergency release, to allow people space to heal and move on after something terrible has happened. In other words, it’s purpose is healing and redemption. And it’s just as necessary today as it was then. God doesn’t intend for people to be locked into abusive relationships, for example.

But the legalists have made the statute into a means to commit a domestic violence, by using it as a free legal license to betray a sacred trust. It’s not the statute, but the circumstances in which it’s abused that Jesus objects to.

Same goes with any law that’s intended for people’s protection but re-interpreted and implemented to betray a sacred trust so that one person or group can gain an unfair advantage over another.