Monday, August 6, 2007

Don't fear--believe Luke 12:32-48

There's a real challenge for believers reading the Gospels. When we meet Jesus in Luke (or any other Gospel) we meet a man and God who acts independently of our values and philosophies.

In our age we like to imagine God as always on our side. One might imagine God as soft and compassionate. He's portrayed by some as a big cosmic Teddy Bear who accepts all. Another might imagine God as angry and vengeful ready to swoop in and spare the chosen few but unleash judgment on the rest of the world.

The real God, revealed in Jesus wasn't always cuddly nor was he always vengeful. He spoke about God's judgment and God's compassion. Jesus, in Luke 12, describes the master beating and cutting away the unfaithful and the unprepared while also speaking of the treasure that we can have stored up in heaven. Jesus spoke a word of warning to his followers that God wants us to be ready to meet him and a promise that this world isn't the end.

As a sinner I want a god who thinks like I do; as a sinner I do not want a God who would challenge me, my actions, and my values. But a living God will do exactly that. In Liberal Protestantism as well as in Fundamentalist Christianity it has become common place to assume that Jesus isn't challenging us or our thoughts. It's tempting to assume that God is always on our side. Many churches and church leaders, both on the liberal and conservative sides of the spectrum, assume that they are right with Jesus and that they are reading scripture properly and that they are right in their actions in the public square. Many, believing they have God's approval, even seek to replace Jesus' challenges to all people with political stands and ethical values as the core of the church's faith. (An interesting view of all this from the conservation side of the spectrum was written by Robert Benne in Word Alone Network News July-August 2007)

The real Jesus won't be pushed over by the right or the left. In Luke I meet Jesus who's not me, and who wants me to stop acting like I'm the one that matters. Jesus wants my ideas and values and judgments to cease. Following him means that Jesus leads so that he can work through me.

In Luke 12:32 Jesus said, "Have no fear little flock." Jesus said it for His own good reason, but it's so much easier said than done. The truth is that all of us believers live with fear and anxiety. But Jesus says don't fear, believer. Jesus' words to his followers don't provide current comfort. He was telling them, and all of us now who hear through Luke's account, about the emerging kingdom of God. Jesus was offering comfort and hope in God's love but no quick fixes to our mortality and all the problems that we have just because we're human.

2000 years ago Jesus prodded his hearers to imagine a God who could care about the whole world, not just the nation of Israel. Today we need to be prodded to see God as someone other than a wish-granting Santa Claus or loving all giving grand-father. As sinners we must repent, over and over, and let Jesus be God instead of trying to replace him with ourselves.

1 comment:

LawAndGospel said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. And I think you are right. So often we try to "package" God in our own image. And we try to see the Holy Spirit only as a big fuzzy blanket instead of a force of restless in our midst as well.