Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Open Letter to the Boston Globe's Editorial Page (12/25/07)

This post is an open letter to James Carroll (Op-Ed writer for the Boston Globe) on his article which appeared on the Globe's website on December 25th, 2007.

Mr. Carroll...I admire your piece as ostensibly a Christmas Day tribute to Jesus Christ, however as I see it, yours is an example of the misunderstanding (or understatement) of the true message left by Jesus and now carried out today by His Holy Spirit in the lives of common people. To illustrate my point, I have taken the liberty to excerpt a few points taken directly from quotes throughout your piece. My point here is not to deride for the sake of being contrarian or argumentative, but to perhaps provide some sharper points of clarity on the Jesus about which you write. Your quotes are in bold below:

"Those who in the first place had come to love him did not give up their affection for him." It was in that "not giving up affection" for the dead Jesus that the Jesus movement was born.
Jesus' followers do indeed 'admire' him, but more importantly, we worship Him; Affection is by far too weak a word. Throughout your piece, affection appears to be the prevailing feeling of Jesus' followers about Him. ...yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (1 Corinthians 8:6)

Dostoevsky sees in him (Jesus) an invitation addressed to every person, to regard himself or herself as capable of overcoming the limits of birth, circumstance, class, culture, and even time.
Jesus' message was not one of 'overcoming' the limits of earthly circumstances. Instead it was one of being regenerated via 'a new birth'. The earthly circumstances were confined to the original man-driven birth. The new birth brings with it an eternal removal of 'the earthly circumstances' enabled by God's Holy Spirit...not via human achievement or ability. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. (John1:12-13) He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him...In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again (John 3:2-3 truncated) For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort... (Philippians 3:3 NLT)

Indeed, the Jesus who rejects slavish authority for himself and others is the living critique of any institution, the church included, that asks less of humans, instead of more.
On the contrary, Jesus by no means rejects authority for Himself. Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus teaches His disciples and future believers of His unique authority as God's only Son. We do well to submit to His authority. In Jesus was the embodiment of authority with complete humility. Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit... (Matthew 28:16-19)

Jesus loved humanity for what it might become.
Jesus loved humanity because it was created by God through Him. Not for what it 'might' become. With God (and Jesus), there is never a might. There just is. The carnal human mind finds this concept to be virtually indiscernible. With the vision provided by God's Holy Spirit, it appears rather simple. Listen to Jesus' words as He prays to God the Father in John Chapter 17: "I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours...My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17: 6-8; 20-21)

I applaud Mr. Carroll for his own unique tribute to our Lord on the celebratory Day of His Birth. However I also pray for Mr. Carroll: greater understanding of the true message of Jesus and increased boldness to communicate it more vividly despite the probable protestations of his publishers.

(All Bible verses from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted)

A God who sends people to Hell?