bonar crump

bonar crump
husband - father - reader - runner - picker - grinner - lover - sinner

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Why Worship Jesus? (part 4)

It’s where we stake our claim to absolute exclusivity as Christians. It’s where we’ve been taught that only the “true believers” in Christ as the Son of God who was born of a virgin came to die on a cross so that we might have eternal life in heaven. It’s where the conservative theologians live, breathe, and teach. It’s where the red letters say, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (NIV).

I’m not about to dive into a verse by verse analysis of all the dynamic ways that John 14 is conveying a myriad of meanings. But I will tell you this—it’s not as simple as most of us believe it to be. We’ve been taught the most convenient ways of understanding these verses by people that have been taught the same. Many of us have hung our hats on these particular verses without appreciating that our interpretations of John 14 might just be coming from the “dummy’s guide to understanding Christianity.” Most of what we understand about this small piece of scripture is a condensed version of a much larger picture. It’s like viewing the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel on a postage stamp…you recognize what it is, but you can’t possibly appreciate the nuances and beauty of it.

Philip says, “show us the Father,” meaning let us see God and then we’ll know FOR SURE that you are who you say you are. Jesus says, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” The intellectually honest person reading these verses understands that Jesus is saying look at who I am and what I do—that is what seeing God is all about. Physical appearance is not being discussed. When someone asks us, “show us the Father,” we are to say look at who I am and what I do.

Oh, but we’re way too conscientious to utter those words. We’d never think to tell someone that if you want to know God then you should get to know me. But why not? Does the Holy Spirit live within us? Do the teachings of Christ fill our hearts? Does the unmitigated passion for others saturate us to the core? The reason we hesitate to answer these questions is because we aren’t always “on point.” Sometimes we’re lollygagging about selfishly in our pajamas at lunchtime having called in to work sick when it’s really more of a hangover that’s knocked us down. We aren’t perfectly “on point” all of the time so we disqualify ourselves from wearing the t-shirt that says, “Want to Know God…Come Get to Know Me.”

Is perfection the starting point of reference for God? If so, then how can we ever ever ever relate to God?

Look, I’m not trying to uncover some Dan Brown hidden code within the original text. I’m trying to lead up to a point. The point is that there are anomalies within our understanding of what these words mean. I’d like to say that it’s okay for us to admit that we don’t know everything about everything. As a matter of fact, I think it best if we first admit that what we think we know isn’t always the entire ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Jesus (the person) vs. Jesus (the virtues) 

If to know God is to know Jesus and to know Jesus is to understand his teachings then to understand the teachings of Jesus is to know God. It’s a basic syllogism. It’s deductive reasoning. The teachings, interactions, experiences of Jesus are of utmost importance. What Jesus looked like and the mental images we conjure of him are completely useless.

It’s about understanding the heart of Jesus. It’s about understanding the collective heart of all those that follow Jesus. It’s about understanding the concept of “Son of Man”. Don’t you get it—there’s more at play here than the recitation of a well-rehearsed Apostle’s Creed. It’s not about information any more than the Sistine ceiling is about specific pigmentations. It IS about the heart of a human being as it relates to God in whatever form it can comprehend.

So what if Jesus (the virtues) is known, practiced, and taught by a group of people that have no interest in Jesus (the person) at all? If they share Jesus values of love and forgiveness and kindness and generosity do they “know” him even though they may not “know of” him? Can someone never touched by the knowledge of Jesus (the person) live by these Jesus values and does that count for anything? If you say no then you are limiting the scope of godly virtue to the person of Jesus. That’s too small of a box!

Harder still—can the person that has rejected Jesus (the person) still hold fast to Jesus (the virtues)? Does the atheist love? Does an atheist’s love count for anything? Does Christianity have a copyright on the godly virtues professed by Jesus? Be careful going after the atheists because a very large percentage of them have been driven to reject the idea of God by Christians.

What if Jesus meant that through him alone we come into the presence of God not as if he’s the only passive doorway leading into heaven, but that through him (i.e. actively ushered into the room and introduced to God) we are able to realize grace and love and peace? What if Jesus (the person) isn’t even involved in the transaction? What if it’s Jesus (the virtues) that is our pathway to righteousness?

Rob Bell’s not the only one that can fill a page with questions… 

It is the values of Jesus that we hold sacred. It is why Jesus (the person) never commanded us to worship him. It’s why he refers to himself as the Son of Man which is a term used to denote humanity or a sense of self. Jesus / Son of Man / Christ-like virtue is US. But when I say US I don’t mean just those that recite the Apostle’s Creed. I’m talking about the collective US scattered all over the globe from every nation and tribe. WE are Jesus in that WE emulate his life/teachings/values whether we realize it or not. Indeed, Christ lives today—He lives in all of the US that emulate Jesus (the virtues).

To worship Jesus (the person) is counterproductive at best. To worship (adore / venerate) Jesus values is a horse of an entirely different color. Likewise, to insist that anyone concede to the persona of Jesus regardless of how they live their lives makes about as much sense as trying to recreate the Sistine ceiling on the head of a pin—it is useless.

WE are the ushers. WE are the Jesus analogs. To know US is to know God. Why do you think so many atheists don’t want anything to do with God? It is because they don’t want to have anything to do with us!

“Hi, my name is Bonar and I am a heretic.”

Series--> part 1--part 2--part 3--part 5


  1. Oh I am just loving this! When we were going through a challenging part of the adoption of our youngest, an acquaintance mentioned to me that had asked all of the "good Christians" she knew to pray for our family. Then she added that I wouldn't want her praying for me because she was just not a good enough Christian yet. I was horrified that someone (likely someone with some sort of "moral authority" - whatever that is) had left this woman feeling this way. Here's a woman who I hardly knew who was thoughtful enough to ask her friends to pray for me and yet she didn't think of herself as good enough.

    And you are spot-on about the reasons that many atheists seem so bitter toward the concept of Christianity. It is not really Christ they want to distance themselves from, it is Christians! Some of my favorite people are atheists. In fact, the kindest, most caring, most generous person I know - my mom - is an atheist. And do you know what? She doesn't consider me a "real" Christian. Not because of my values or a perceived shallowness of my faith - but because her experience with people who are "real" Christians has taught her that they are hateful. It is shameful, really. While I cannot comment on any other person's faith or the depth of their relationship with Christ, I am certainly capable of recognizing behavior that is not in line with Christ's teachings (except not always in myself - sometimes I need help recognizing that :) ). And so can people who are not Bible readers. People who have never read a page of the Bible can tell you that we are supposed to love our neighbors and that we are not to judge others. People who read the Bible A LOT often speak of power, exclusivity, damnation, and righteousness (though it is often self-righteousness that they are speaking of). There is a major disconnect here somewhere.

    Your writing is beautiful and eloquent as always!

  2. I am with you on this. I am enjoyed the series you wrote

    I think the scriptures are there to reveal His Son to us (taken as a whole-not deciphering a specific verse for consensus). His Son lives today...His actual Body is The Bride (US), which are the hands and feet that are scattered all over the globe as you put it.

    When everyone comes together (wherever you are) and loves and encourages each other (lives in community together), that is the Allness of God that is seen by others, and that is a powerful thing (much larger and more complex than we could ever imagine). Want to see God.. let US a His Bride love each other.. He will be seen!