Archive for the ‘Bible’ Category

Human Jesus

August 18, 2018

I’ve been thinking some more about Jesus as human by thinking about Biblical texts that portray Jesus’ humanity. We have the story of young Jesus in the Temple giving his parents a smarty pants sort of answer, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). He sounds like a thirteen year old.

In Matt 17:17  he seems frustrated, “How much longer must I put up with you?”

But what has caught my attention most is the story of when the devil tempts Jesus. (Matt 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13). There is a lot to talk about in this story- the implications of these particular temptations, how the temptations mirror the temptations of Israel, the surprising revelation that the devil controls “all the kingdoms of the world” but I want to focus on the idea of Jesus being tempted.

As the text reads, or better put, as I have read the text, the devil presents a temptation and Jesus responds promptly. But that’s not how temptation works- at least for me.

The devil could try to tempt me with lima beans( which I despise and haven’t eaten in 40 years or so) or something I don’t want, say a jumbo jet. But those aren’t really temptations are they. It takes no effort at all on my part to refuse those sorts of temptations. Lima beans? No thank you.

And some temptations would be quite situational. If I am really hungry, tempting me with a candy bar might be successful. If I am not hungry, I am better able to resist. But tempting me with, say healing for a family member, or safety for my children, even coming from the devil, I might need to take some time before I turn that down. I would really have to think about what was gained and at what cost.

The devil tempts Jesus with human necessity, particularly after a 40 day fast, food. The devil tempts Jesus over his trust in God. Would angels really save him if he jumped? The devil tempts Jesus with what Jesus knows will be his anyway, authority over the world- but without the personal suffering and sacrifice.  Real temptations.

What scripture doesn’t tell us is how much Jesus struggled with these temptations, or if he struggled at all. After these temptations, Jesus begins his ministry, evidently now clear in his own mind and heart where his allegiance was. I wonder if that essentially unshakable allegiance was forged in a struggle over the devil’s temptations?

If Jesus was seriously tempted to abandon God’s plan for him, does that affect how you think about him? Do you feel somewhat let down by this human who was tempted? Or do you feel some solidarity with, kinship with the human tempted Jesus? Or do you feel that you can take your struggles with temptation to Jesus, knowing he understands exactly what it means to be tempted?

Resisting in love or fear?

August 12, 2018

I continue to think about how we can have some level of assurance that our actions are aligned with God’s will (as best we understand it). This matters because people do all sorts of things, both good and bad, in God’s name and on God’s behalf.

Yesterday I suggested that humility needed to be a part of this process. Today I want to add in the idea of motive. You can pick your issue, but when Christians are involved on either side of the debate you can be sure all of us think we are doing God’s will. On the surface, our motive is to be faithful. But that is not the only thing that motivates us. We might ask ourselves what else is driving my actions and ideas? Are they arising out of fear? Or out of love, concern for the other? Fear is a powerful motivator for us humans- actually it is a powerful motivator for all creatures. You may remember this simple biological response to fear-  either fight or flight.

If we see the world around us as a dangerous place, we might withdraw from it. We close ourselves off into safe Christian areas. We might, however, decide to fight. To stand for what we believe is important. But when we act out of fear, we are almost by definition working to protect ourselves. We don’t have the emotional and rational energy to worry about anyone else- the other. In fact they, those others, may well be part of the problem.

If we are afraid of the stranger, the poor, the different, the “other” it will be hard- perhaps impossible to do anything but react in a way to preserve our sense of safety. Preying on our fears is a common strategy these days for politicians and preachers alike.

But the Bible urges us to go a different way. “Perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18).  “We love because he [God] first loved us” (1 John 4:19)  Actually all of 1 John is helpful in thinking about this.

We need to be honest with ourselves about what our motives are. What emotions are driving our words and our actions. Are we motivated by fear? Or by love? It can be hard to know. Our minds are quite skilled at justifying our actions and telling us what we want to hear. But it is so important for us to be involved in the spiritual practices and disciplines that will help us recognize what our motivations are.


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