Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I Wear Glasses

I have a very dear friend who is not a Christian.  She is one of the most supportive and kind friends I have.  I could spend this whole post just talking about how I love her and respect her, even if she and I disagree on religion.  I can honestly say that she has never been anything but supportive and encouraging, always pushing me on even when I've talked with her about how frustrating some parts of my life have been.  At the same time she's always been honest and open, laughing, complaining, and even sometimes just talking about what's going on in life.

I mention her because she recently told me that I should spend some time blogging on things not related to religion and politics.  My response to her is that I have no idea what I would write about if it weren't for religion.  Even my politics revolves around my religion.  I know that upsets some people, they feel as though people like me, who measure everything by our religious profession, are a danger, because we want to enforce our religion through the power of government, or because we can't separate religion from other aspects of life.

I'd like to take the opportunity to talk about why I view everything through religion.  I want to do this for two reasons: first, I want to explain to those who don't view life like I do why I view life through the glasses of Christianity, and secondly I want to encourage other Christians, who may sometimes struggle with how to think about life, to let Christ be the one through whom they understand all things.  For those who don't see the world like I do I hope this will help them to understand the views of people like me, so that hopefully they see there is less reason to be concerned than they might otherwise think.  For those who are struggling with how to view life I want them to be confident in how they walk, so that they might remain strong in the face of a questioning world.

My reason for viewing the world through a religious lens is quite simple: I don't know of any other way to view the world and still hold God as first in my life.  What I mean is that Christ commands of his followers to put him as first; the only and absolute standard by which we live.  He commands me to take up my cross, deny myself, and daily follow him.  That means that in every situation I must first and foremost consider him and his desires, dying to myself above all else.

When I was young this is what I feared the most about Christianity.  As I saw it God was the only one who was ever called good in Scripture (Jesus himself affirms that when the rich young ruler calls him "good teacher").  But, if God is the only one ever called good, and if my life was to aim for the highest good, then that would mean that I would have to ever die to myself and become more and more like Christ.  My fear was quite simply that I would no longer be me, but I would be more and more like Christ, and I wasn't sure that was what I wanted.

The reality is that I like me, for the most part.  I know me better than I know anyone else, and I'm pretty happy with the me I know.  After all, if I didn't like who I was I could change who I was into who I like, or at least that's what I tell myself.  Yes, there are aspects of me I don't like so much, there are parts of me I wish I could change, but over all I'm pretty content with me, and I don't know that I'd like being anyone else quite as much.  There is something terrifying in thinking that one day I might find that I'm not me anymore, that I'm someone else, because I don't know that I'd like that person as well as I like who I am today.

But, as I have walked more and more with Christ I find that I like him far more than I like me.  I've come to learn that Jesus loves my wife better than I love her.  God cares for my daughter more than I ever will.  In fact the Lord cares for my friends, my enemies, and the strangers that I will never meet in a way that I could only dream of.  In every way I've discovered, Christ is a better man than I am, and I want to be more like him.

Because I want to be more like him I try and view everything through the lens of Scripture, trusting that it is his very word, given that I might know him and his ways better.  With this foundation I look to passages such as Ephesians 5:16 wherein Paul calls to us to make the most of our time, realizing that the days are evil.  Thus every moment of my time must be measured, recognizing that I won't ever get that moment again.  Since every moment of my time must be viewed through that lens, that means everything that happens in that moment must be equally viewed through that same lens.

If I spend 30 minutes watching a video, then what else could I have done with that 30 minutes?  If I spend 30 minutes relaxing, then have I set my mind and body at ease so I can be of better service in the upcoming struggles of life?  If I spend 15 minutes talking with my neighbor about his work, then have I wisely spent that 15 minutes so that I might serve God?  In everything these is a balance, and every minute must be counted and weighed so that I know that I have made use of the times I have.

Do I perfectly think of everything in this way?  No, of course not.  If I so thought perfectly then I would never sin, for how could even one moment of sin or misbehavior ever be considered worth the trade off in time I could have spent in righteous pursuits?  Yet, in the large view of life, this is how I view everything.

I think politics is important, but I'm not as active or as vocal as I sometimes want to be because I would rather not deafen someone by talking politics when the things of God are of greater import.  Sure in the time that Jesus walked the earth there were very important political questions, yet for the most part Christ never engaged in open political criticism or discourse, because he understood that the kingdom of God is more important than any kingdom in this world.  How can I take any different view?

I like movies, entertainment, and even computer games, but why talk about them when there are more important questions to discuss, like the coming eternity?  Moreover, how do I view those games if not through the redemptive lens of Christ, thinking about how the themes of the games and movies I entertain myself with relate to the greater narrative that God is unfolding in all of reality?  I long ago told my wife that I realize it was impossible to tell an interesting story without intersecting with gospel themes, because Christ is the final anti-type of every hero, his romance with the church is the culmination of every romance we have ever dreamed, and the threat of eternal damnation and the enslavement of humanity to the powers of evil is the root of every helpless orphan and every abject terror or ruthless villain man has ever conjured.

You see, I cannot help but see the world through the lens of Christianity because Christ is the architect of this world, and he has woven it so that everywhere I look I see him looking back.  I see the grace of God in the sunrise of the morning, the power of God in a thunderstorm, the horror of sin in sickness, death, and dissolution, and the hope of redemption in every child's smile, in the dew on the ground, and the gentle breeze on a hot summer day.  I'm hardwired to think this way, it is not just my religion, it is my whole being.  While I love to write, and while I'd love to write on a hundred topics, I know that they would always come back to this: The gospel is the only story worth telling, and any story that doesn't point us to it is a poor story indeed.

Moral Perfection and Christ

The other day I had a friend ask me a question about the impeccability of Christ, and whether we downplay the humanity of Christ in appealing to this doctrine.  For those who aren't familiar with theological terminology the question of the peccability of Christ has to do with whether or not Christ could have sinned.  Usually this is a debate among Christians who all agree that Christ did not sin, but the question is whether or not Christ could have sinned.  In some sense we are asking whether in an alternate universe it would be theoretically possible that Christ could sin.  It may seem like a non-issue, but there can be some serious implications that develop from this question depending on which side you take.

I'm not going to go into the whole argument on the impeccability of Christ here.  Instead I am going to assume the position of Christ being impeccable, that is that Christ not only did not sin, but that Christ could not have sinned.  If you want to read the whole argument for the impeccability of Christ there are multiple websites that give a very good analysis of the doctrine (a simple search in any good search engine can get you to multiple discussions on the matter).  For now, whether you agree or disagree with the doctrine I want to address the specific question that was sent to me: how does the impeccability of Jesus Christ impact our understanding of his humanity?

There is a concern that due to the impeccability of Christ we could end up minimizing the humanity of Christ as we apply his righteousness to ourselves, fighting temptation, etc.  However, I think this would only be the case if we divide Christ in these areas instead of considering the whole counsel of Scripture.  If we allow all of Scripture to speak to us and we consider the fullness of Christ then we are never in danger of falling away from the clear teaching of Scripture.  In this area, applying the righteousness of Christ and thinking about fighting temptation should not detract from the humanity of Christ, but rather should bring that humanity into focus.

Yes, we have a truly righteous savior because of the divine nature of Christ.  Because he truly was the righteousness of God he was able to live perfectly, never falling into temptation as Adam did.  And because he was righteous and of infinite worth he allows all those who have faith in him to participate in that righteousness.  No mere man could ever offer this righteousness to others, because, as Job says, if we are righteous, our righteousness affects only us, not God.  Yet, the righteousness of God in its infinite value can be applied to all men through the atoning sacrifice of the perfectly righteous Christ.

At the same time we are able to fight sin not merely because of the presence of Christ, which we ought never denigrate, but also because he promised, and sent, the Holy Spirit, who is the very person of God living in us.  As the Spirit indwells us he fills us with power to resist temptation, whether we walk in that power or not depends on whether we follow in obedience to Christ in crucifying the human nature that lives within us.  Thus we must rely totally on God in bringing us out from sin, so that the divinity of Christ is well seen as we think on these things.

But, that is only one aspect.  On the other hand we have passages such as Hebrews, as you quoted in your text.  In Hebrews 2 we see that the righteousness of Chris is applied to us not because he is God, but because he is our high priest.  As our high priest he must be fully human, for if he were only God then how would he have any connection to the fallen state of humanity to redeem us?  By becoming human and suffering as a man Christ brought humanity into perfection, something that was necessary and that could only be done by God joining to man in perfect unity.  Now we have a high priest who is like us in every way, that is being totally human, yet without sin in any way, that is being totally God.  Thus we need both his humanity and his divinity if we are to walk in his righteousness.

Likewise when we come to him to ask that he would give us strength to fight sin, he knows our every temptation.  God cannot be tempted by Sin, as James 1 makes clear.  Since God cannot be tempted by sin, while yet being omniscient, how could we say that God knows our sufferings of temptation so as to be merciful to us and respond to our cries with such grace?  But, because Christ is fully man he knows our sufferings, he has experienced temptation, and thus he is able to be merciful to us, responding in grace because of the great love with which he loved us.

So while Christ is impeccable and eternally unable to sin, yet at the same time this does not take away from his humanity.  If it were not for his impeccability would we not always have to worry that our high priest might yet sin against God?  For Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, meaning that his nature never changes.  But, knowing that our brother will never sin against God we have the eternal comfort of a redeemer who testifies on our behalf at the throne of God, interceding for those who would otherwise deserve only the judgment of God and hell thereafter.  And because of his humanity we know that we never need to fear being rejected by him, for he was made as one of us that he might call us brothers.

So we have a great hope in Christ and a wonderful participation in the righteousness and power of God because of Christ's divinity and his humanity.  We ought always remember that there is no separation of Christ's nature, for while he is fully human and fully God he is also only one, not two Christ's divided by nature.  We must remember it is because of both of these natures we participate in the divine blessings.  And we must remember that it is by means of both natures that we can come and offer praise and blessing to him who lives forever and ever.  We come not in our own humanity, but rather in the robes of righteousness given us by the Son of God; humanity reborn, dressed in divine clothing as given by our merciful Father.