Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Jesus and reality

Reality is Jesus-shaped.

That really struck me a couple of weeks ago as I was preparing to talk about Christian views of sexuality.  (You can find the audio here should you so desire).  Reality is Jesus shaped.  By that I mean that the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth both undergird reality, and that the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth shape reality.  Here is part of Colossians 1:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church.  He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent.  For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven,making peace by the blood of his cross.
Note, first of all, the subject of this paragraph.  It is Jesus Christ.  Specifically, it is the man Jesus Christ.  There is no room in this paragraph for a fleshless Logos.  He is the one who shed his blood on the cross, the one who was firstborn from the dead, and - most decisively - the one in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.  We are talking here about Jesus of Nazareth.

But then note that it is through and for him that all things exist.  He is before all things.  He holds everything together.  Paul is not expounding some sort of odd theory about the eternal pre-existence of Jesus' human nature (although some others have done just that).  He is saying that the eternal Son of God created the universe as the one who would enter that universe and as the one for whose incarnation that universe exists.  The universe is about Jesus; it is about the coming into the world of the incarnate Son of God.

Which means that the central story of the universe - the beating heart of reality - is the good news of Jesus' death and resurrection.  That event is what reality is all about.  And that event shapes reality.

The more I think about it, the more I think it's vitally important for our churches to get this right.  If we forget that reality is about Jesus, our religion may become disconnected from life.  We will just be a club, holding our distinctive beliefs - perhaps very sincerely - and carrying out our worship - possibly with great devotion - but without any of it really touching real life.  We will lose contact with the world, and be unable to communicate our message (I say this as if it were hypothetical; of course, sadly it is not).  We will not know how to speak as Christians into the different situations of the world, because we do not understand that those situations are already part of a reality that is driven by the gospel.  Our theology will stop being about articulating the gospel in the language and culture of today, and become merely a repeating of the Bible.  And our lives will become barren because only 'spiritual' things will be valued.

The end result of a massive disconnect like this can only be that we will abandon the faith (because reality is so much more... real - and Jesus doesn't seem to have anything to do with it), or we will abandon the world (because Jesus is so much more important, and he doesn't seem to have anything to do with reality).  We will become atheists or pietists.

And neither will do.  Because it is all about him.


  1. Anonymous9:48 pm

    You will eat the fruit of your lips...

    1. Quite possibly, although I'm not at all sure what that means...