Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Question: Is Jesus Personal to Us?

Last Sunday we engaged the question: How do we, you and I, listen to Jesus’ voice in our lives?

This continued the focus from the week prior in which we reflected upon being conscious of Jesus Christ as we go about living out our lives.

As I reflected on the above question, I asked another question:  Is Jesus personal to us?

I asked this question for two reasons:

One, if we listen and engage anyone in personal conversation, they need to be personal to us;
Likewise, if we are to hear Jesus’ voice as the primary voice in our lives – our engaging Jesus needs to be personal.

Second, I realize that in our normal conversations, we often do not name the name of Jesus and I wonder why that is.  We normally do name Jesus' name when we worship – in songs, in confessions, in prayers, in telling stories of Jesus to our children.  I realize that I contribute to this as well.  We talk about God, the Spirit, or of Christ (which tends to keep God a little at a distance).  We talk about the things like justice, peace, and mercy, creation care – things that Jesus is passionate about – but we don’t really speak of Jesus particularly, personally, using his name.  So why is that?
As I was reflecting on this further I came across a perspective offered by John Howard Yoder in The Priestly Kingdom: Social Ethics as Gospel.

Yoder presents the possibility that speaking of Jesus particularly and personally "embarrasses us" (p. 41).  It seems we want to speak about ethics and belief a little more universally, but being particular makes us look, or even feel, somewhat intolerant - so we are a little embarrassed. 

But Yoder has this to say:

"We need to doubt the focus upon the generalizability of ethical demands at the price of particular specifications, not only because all natural insight is fallen but because (to say it again in Christian terms) we confess as Lord and Christ the man Jesus.  Then the particular and the general cannot be alternatives.  The general cannot be arrived at by subtracting the particular.  Any embarrassment with particularity which seeks to get at the general that way is a denial of faith. 
     Now, there is nothing wrong with denying the faith if that is what you want to do.  Nobody has to believe.  Nobody who claims to 'believe' has to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord.  One of the reasons people deny the faith is, in fact (I suspect) that they think that everyone ought to have to believe; therefore they think that the meaning of belief must be adjusted so that it is acceptable or even irresistible to everyone.  That is why the sharp edges of particularity must be honed off.  One's own identity must be apologized for as the product of an irreducible, not culpable but not interesting, narrowness, so that what one commends to others is credible generally, untainted by the provincial.  Now I am embarrassed as anyone about the limits of my particularity.  I too had a post-Enlightenment education.  I can confess my culpability, personal and collective as male, as American, as Mennonite, as university employee, as property owner, as local church member, etc.  Yet none of this embarrassment can be covered for by imagining a less particular Jesus that the one in the story, or a less particular path today than to be one specific community rather than another" (pp. 43-44).

Rather than avoiding speaking about Jesus or naming Jesus' name in our conversations when we talk about living out our faith in life, we need to rediscover how we need to think and speak about Jesus in a pluralistic world.

Maybe we can learn to do this together as a community which has been called to be community by Jesus Christ.

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