Sunday, August 08, 2004

jesus and the divine human

In discussion with my good friend Post Liberal, I started thinking about what implications the incarnation has on our view of human nature. I came up with this....

I don't think we can really call ourselves Christians unless we acknowledge the essential divine nature of all human beings. This was already hinted at in the Old Testament when God breathes into Adam's nostrils; the Hebrew word for breath, I believe, is the same one used for 'spirit'. But Jesus took this even further. He is different to other incarnations. He isn't a divine stranger from heaven, he is a man. He shows us that man is divine. He invites us to share his divine sonship, he calls us to become the light of the world as he is. But we needed Jesus to show us this. Jesus revealed the Christ nature in all of us, just as Gautama revealed the Buddha nature.

In the links that RobertB posted on the previous post, Geza Vermes (although he would heavily disagree with all the stuff I have just written) mentions that Jesus is essentially a teacher for the individual. He isn't interested in social reform on a grand scale, but rather our inner transformation, our personal relationship with God, the discovery of the kingdom within. Throughout Christian history, we have had to remind ourselves of the deeply personal implications of the message of Jesus. I imagine that even Vermes feels a distinct relationship with Jesus. This goes back to what we were saying about portraits of Christ. The fact that the Jesus of Luke's gospel differs from that of John's or that of St Paul is now acceptable. We all have to find Christ for ourselves, and not someone else's Christ. As Post Liberal has stated on his blog, that requires a constant re-evaluation of Christ and of ourselves. It is little wonder that Jesus liked to ask the question 'And who do you say I am?'

Oh, and here is that quotation from Dom Laurence that I promised!

"In 63 BC, the Roman general Pompey strode sacrilegiously into the Holy of Holies in the temple of Jerusalem to find out what was at the heart of the Jewish religion that was causing him so much trouble. He expected to find a statue or a cult object, some kind of visible mystery. He found nothing at all, merely a small empty room and left astounded and contemptuous. To invade the gospels with that kind of insensitivity will breed the same kind of insensitivity."

- Jesus the Teacher Within, Laurence Freeman

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I do think the Kingdom of God is both within and among us. This covers both possibly translations! The ministry of Christ starts at home. His message is one that we take on board personally, we undergo personal transformation. However, anyone can see that his message has more wide-ranging implications. But the Jesusian (I don't feel write Christian here unfortunately!) social transformation does not, in my view, come from above. It comes after we have all change ourselves by the Grace of God. This is why I can't understand those who see Christianity as in anyway authoritarian. Sure, the Churches are, but at the heart of our faith is a man (and hence a God) who is interested in us personally, as individuals. He knows us, he turns to seek us out in the crowd when we connect with him. Jesus doesn't set up organisations he sets up disciples. Then (hopefully) via these disciples (which we might see as the different limbs of the Body) society takes its shape.

Social reform is first and foremost concerned with society as a whole. What people do in their own time is largely irrelevant. But Jesus is interested in us wherever we are. God sees us when we are alone. Every action counts. Perhaps this is why Vermes sees him as a teacher for the individual. The reform Jesus is interested in starts with ourselves. In the heart. We have to plant that mustard seed before we see the tree...

When I’ve gone to demonstrations, Anti Bush, No War, May Day and the like, I often hear the slogan “What’s the solution? Revolution!” bandied around as regards world ills. A small voice in me usually says “yes, but the revolution also needs to get on in your self.” When I’m around some Christian groups, I hear only of the need to make a personal commitment to Jesus; I want to ask why they seem to have discredited the social gospel by action or default.

Yeah, I don’t feel very comfortable with those who deny community-wide social and political change should be called for, or those who deny that our personal mandate is to be reformed in parallel with expecting others to get changing. There is some sense in which some who demand this and that can forget holistic 'revolution' is corporate and personal. Some forget one aspect of restoration, which Jesus seemed to be trying live out and demonstrate, and some the other.

I suppose what you say about the inherent grassroots (I’m none too happy with this buzzword, but there’s none other I can think of) flexibility of Jesus duel attention to both manages to ensure against authoritarianism and against individualism. These are equally dangerous, and can seemingly come from an unbalanced following of Christ’s lead. Hence my discussion with Keir.

apologies - I seem to have removed one of my posts in this page by some accidental slip, unless the computer did it for me. ah well, hope people manage to get the gist by your responce
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