Monday, June 9, 2008

Mike: Response to Rami's 6/9 Post

Agreed. Let's begin by each of us offering a brief statement about our individual perspectives on Jesus. After we've done so, I'll prepare a separate post introducing the Sermon on the Mount, insofar as I am able.

Now for Jesus. As you can imagine, it's difficult for me to summarize my take on Jesus in a brief post, but I'll try to do so.

Jesus, ideally, is the center of my life. Traditionally, Christians speak of Jesus as "Lord," "Master," "Teacher," "Savior," and the like. The simplest way I know to capture the essence of all such terms is to picture Jesus as the one around whom I orient myself. You'll probably ask, "Which Jesus?" My response is the Jesus we find in the canonical gospels (in all his complexity and simplicity), the Jesus of Christian reflection, and the living Jesus I know through the Spirit of God. For me, this is what it means to be a disciple or follower of Jesus.

Of course, while doing so I try to take care not to fall into the trap of thinking I've got Jesus pegged. As Carlyle Marney put it, "I try to follow the light I've been given, and I hope for more light."

God and humanity intersect and become one in Jesus. How? I don't know. But I accept the Incarnation and Resurrection, and when I combine them with the life and teachings and manner of Jesus, I find I stand in the presence of someone far greater than myself (or any other). He knows me, and indeed knows the human condition, not in the abstract but as a full participant. Yet, he knows God in much the same way, as a full participant in the life of God. I, therefore, can use language such as "Son of God," "Son of Man," "God-Man," and the like--though, I try to be careful in doing so, since such terms are open to any number of interpretations.

I know Jesus as the one in whom we see what life is supposed to be like, both now and in the new creation. He is the one who knows what it means to love God, others and self as God intends. Self-giving love (agape)finds full expression in his life and death, and through his resurrection is validated as the ultimately unconquerable way of life.

Strangely, enough, if I am to engage Jesus with integrity, I must take seriously that he was a first century Jewish man. That's the aggravating aspect to Incarnation--it refuses to allow you to divorce discourse about the divine from the nitty-gritty of human life and history. The first century matters. I believe there is considerable continuity between Jesus the first century person and Jesus the Risen One. In fact, I best trust interpretations of Jesus' intent when they are tied strongly to his historical context.

Finally, I find I must treat Jesus as a living entity. Resurrection matters, too. This involves more than memories and influence. For me, it is an objective reality. Not that I claim to understand all that means; in fact, such a thing is quite beyond my grasp. But I try to operate as if Jesus is alive, well, "at the right hand of God," and taking a healthy interest in the world at large and even in me. This is why I may speak of "a living Lord," Jesus as our "friend," and the like.

All of the above, and considerably more we'll no doubt unearth, comes into play when I deal with the canonical scriptures and their account of Jesus.


MaryAnn said...

That was a masterpiece of clarity. Thank you. I also very much liked your personal take on the 10 Commandments.

Mike Smith and Rami Shapiro said...

This is Mike. Thank you, not only for the complimnet but for the care with which you read the blog and interact with us.