Wednesday, December 08, 2010

It doesn't have to be this way

"This foundational theological belief in the sovereign rule of God in the risen Jesus Christ can be the basis for an attitude of confidence without lapsing into an ugly triumphalism or a defensive paranoia. The sovereignty of God is the basis not for a martyr complex, but for true martyrdom – which is witnessing to Jesus Christ come what may. A persecution complex is essentially self-interested and even narcissistic. A life lived for Jesus Christ, on the other hand, risks itself entirely for the good of the other without regard for self – knowing that it entrusts itself to the God who raised Jesus from the dead."

- Michael Jensen.

Michael is talking about why a particular denomination or church doesn't need to fear its own demise, though his key theological claim here (which lies at the centre of his PhD thesis on martyrdom) is not far from the centre of my own thesis.

The good news of the risen Christ means that Christians don't need to fear squaring up to whatever social, political or ecological challenges that may already exist or may soon arise. We are free to pour ourselves out in loving service of neighbour for the glory of God, entrusting ourselves to the God who raised Jesus from the dead. We can do the hard work of thinking through how best to love our neighbours in a rapidly changing world, where a complex variety of interconnected goods clamour for our attention in patterns both persistent and novel.

Why does the good news banish our fears? Or rather, why does it enable us to face them squarely and yet be undaunted, requiring no distraction, no promise of a silver bullet, no paralysing despair, no frantic scramble to save ourselves? In faith, hope and love, Jesus walked willingly into the valley of the shadow of death. We can follow him without being alone, without needing to vindicate ourselves, without needing any guarantees that the path will not be bumpy or difficult. Where he has gone, we follow.

I have finished a number of my recent posts suggesting that "It doesn't have to be this way". The possibility of another way is discovered as we walk in the footsteps of the one who carried his cross to Golgotha. And it begins with surprise, wonder and joy at the birth of a baby amongst beasts. Advent is a season in which Christians are to wait, to pray, to hope: it doesn't have to be this way.


gbroughto said...

In fact:
it doesn't have to be this way

is a pithy way of articulating what God says in the risen Christ... an updated version of Barth's 'Yes' to the many and varied ways in which the world says 'no'

In fact, I like it so much I think it needs to be worked into your thesis title!

byron smith said...

Thanks Geoff.

I've already got about six different working titles, so we'll see...