Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Jesus the Judge

One profitable way to read John's gospel is as a lawsuit.  In sending his Son, God prosecutes the world, beginning with his own people.  The unfolding story of the gospel is the story of a sharp division, which is brought to light by (caused by?) the presence of God's Christ.  This could be unpacked at length, but for now I just want to point you to John 3:16-21.

A few things:
v16.  Jesus was sent to save the world, at great cost to himself.  Of course, John 3:16 is the most famous verse in the Bible, and the basic concept is very familiar.  But it is useful, devotionally and theologically, to be reminded of it.  The reason Jesus came into the world was to save the world.
v17.  This is explicitly contrasted with condemnation, for which Jesus did not come into the world.  The condemnation of the world was no part of the goal of Jesus' sending, which was aimed wholly at the salvation of the world through him.
v18.  Nevertheless, the result of Jesus' coming is a division.  Those who trust in him are not condemned; those who do not are shown to be "condemned already".  Is this the bringing to light of a pre-existing condemnation?  Not quite, because the reason for the condemnation is explicitly that they have not trusted Jesus.  He is the dividing line.
v19-20.  The rejection of Jesus is in line with people's prior behaviour - having always loved the darkness, they hate the manifestation of pure light which draws near in Christ.  Desiring to continue in evil deeds, they retreat from the light.
v21.  Those who do not retreat, but who come into the light, show in so doing that they are drawn by God, and that their good deeds are to be attributed only to his working.

So, Jesus' coming is all gospel, and Jesus' presence is all light - no alien God, no hidden God, in this passage. Jesus Christ is pure saving revelation of the one good God.  He divides the world, not by turning towards one part in love and another in rejection, or by showing one part his gospel face and another part his law face.  He divides the world by being the gospel - by loving with an everlasting love, and going to Calvary.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Reflections on Riots

Just a few thoughts, from a Christian perspective, as I try to process what's going on.

1.  I need to beware my instinct to look for some fundamental difference between me and the people who are out on the streets.  I would love nothing more than to be able to say 'I am not like them', and of course there are significant differences - but if there are any ultimate differences they are based on Christ and not my own natural character.  Suppose the looting and rioting to be driven by the basest motives - anger, greed, envy: are those things absent from my heart?

2.  Seeing God's providential hand behind all the events, one has to ask 'what is being said to us?'  Surely a wake-up call to a society which has assumed that it is affluent and secure, and can get by well enough without God and without any value system.

3.  We must say at one and the same time 'the sin of individuals has caused this' and 'the sin of society has caused this'.  Therefore, we must insist on the one hand that individuals be punished, and that society examine itself to see what systemic failings have contributed to these actions.  Ed Miliband seems to me to have been clearest about this on the political side.

4.  We must preach gospel-with-law, not just law.  Only Jesus provides the meaningful narrative within which these people (and all people) must live their lives, and he offers transformation and a call to a better life.  This is true of everyone regardless of background - nobody's background means they don't need it, nobody's background means they're too far gone for it.

5.  Might it not be the case that creating a society with a massive sense of entitlement, and then creating a situation in which certain groups of people have very little, would inevitably lead to conflict?  We need to address not just the deprivation, but also the expectation that the world revolves around you and you have a right to do and have whatever you want.

More thought needed.