Lentblog 2015, Day 17: The Truth Is In Jesus.

Ephesians 4:17-24; NRSV

17 Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds.18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. 19 They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 That is not the way you learned Christ! 21 For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. 22 You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts,23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

So here Paul launches into the “complaint” part of his letter. It’s consistent with what he just told them: Look y’all, it’s time to grow up. What jumps out at me is verse 21:

” For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus.” I’m reminded of some things we tend to believe in my tradition, at least when we’re true to our tradition and haven’t been theologically morphed into sort of baptistified Nazarenes (Apologies to any Calvinist-leaning friends reading this… however the truth is we really do believe some significantly different things).  We tend to believe that truth exists. And His name is Jesus. Now what that means is that truth is not something I can sort of objectively hold in my hand outside of what happens in Jesus. That also means truth doesn’t exist outside of God’s self-revelation in Christ through the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of John reminds us that the Spirit will guide us into all truth. And the Spirit reveals Jesus, who reveals the Father.

Here’s an example: When Modernity (or the Age of Reason) says something like, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” I guess I don’t really believe that anymore. Let me explain… it’s not that I don’t believe that “all [people] are created equal” isn’t true. It’s that I do not believe that bit of truth is self-evident. I believe wholeheartedly that for us to understand what it means to be created equal, that truth only happens in Jesus.  This little experiment called America states in the Declaration of Independence that it’s “self-evident” that all are equal. And then we’ve lived out the last 230-something years proving we don’t really understand what that truth means. I think it’s because we got the source wrong in the first place. I think it’s because we really do believe we can come to truth without Jesus. We can know something because it’s self-evident. But we’re wrong, and we’ve been wrong from the beginning. Truth is in Jesus, which makes our knowledge of any truth at all totally dependent on him. Truth is a Person, no a data set.

We make the same mistakes in the life of the church. We’ve turned theology… theology for Pete’s sake… into a set of propositions to be learned, memorized, and agreed with. It’s facts and data points to be assented-to. And again, we’re wrong. That might be the ‘Merican way, but it’s not he Way of Jesus Paul is speaking of here. Truth is in Jesus. Knowledge of the truth, let alone living it out, happens in relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit. Such a reality, I think, would really fry our bacon if we really thought about it.




LentBlog Day 12: It’s Relational, Not Positional.

Romans 5:12-21

Tonight, this passage highlights for me one of the big differences between the tradition of which I am a part (the Church of the Nazarene) and some of our more Calvinist/Reformed brothers and sisters. It’s pretty obvious for any Nazarene theologian who might read this, but it’s what’s at the forefront for me tonight: For our tradition, salvation/being “rightified” is a relational thing.Image

For some others, it’s more positional: Humans sinned. They are now in the “sinners/condemned” column, and when God rightifies them, they are moved into the “righteous/saved” column. Lots of theological implications for this, including our old nemesis Eternal Security. Sin is a thing God cuts out of me and separates as far as east is from west. It’s a cancer to be removed.

Not sure that’s what this passage says, though: For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (v. 19). Paul talks about the trespass of one man leading to death, and the free gift of grace leading to life and salvation. The thing about this passage is its use of relational language. Sin happens as the one man disobeys. Disobedience happens only in relationship one to another. In the same way, salvation comes through the obedience of Jesus. Obedience happens only in relationship. Grace as a gift implies a relation between the giver and the receiver.

I guess I grow weary of positional language, because honestly I think it leads to excuses and cop-outs for full-blown sinful behavior. I feel like I’ll throw up in my mouth a little every time I hear something like, “well, you know… we’re not perfect. We’re just sinners, after all” when it’s used to explain away the sinful behavior of folks who claim to be Christian. Such an argument doesn’t carry much weight in a tradition where “sin” properly-so-called is defined as a “willful transgression against a known law of God.” Is it possible to actually live a whole day and not willfully thumb my nose at God and disobey on-purpose? It better be, or the real moral and ethical expectations of Jesus really don’t matter. And relational theology is a key to understanding that, I think. Sin and righteousness happen in relationship. Relationships are dynamic, changing, growing or declining, messy and beautiful things. There are not a lot of formulas and static propositions that can grow a relationship.

The same is true of being a follower of Jesus. It’s not static, stale, and formulaic. It’s dynamic, alive, breathing, growing, and living… almost like being in love.