Monday, June 05, 2006

"Jesus Is The Answer"

This is a phrase I heard and said several times in my youth. It was sometimes the way to hopefully bring comfort, sometimes a way to trump a conversation, and sometimes a way to remind myself why others were not the answer...others like Gandhi, Buddha, Mohammad, etc. It might have been wrapped up in Jesus being absolute truth and it was most always wrapped up in something about having a personal relationship with God. "Jesus is the answer" meant having a personal relationship with Jesus (ie. talking, walking, hanging with J-E-S-U-S) and that relationship was somehow the final answer.

That was my youthful fundamentalist understanding.

I wrote a post a few days ago about coming back to words like believer and others that I had disposed of a few years back. This is a phrase I'd like to come back to.

You see, in my limited understanding of Jesus' core message and his charge to his followers to go out and live and teach this Kingdom Way, he was not calling people to go out to introduce them to this new religious celebrity. He was calling people to actually live out this Kingdom Way and train others in loving Creator by loving creation. Seems simple enough for me to find this in the Gospels.

But somewhere along the way (and perhaps quite recently) there has been a shift away from the man's teachings and just to him as a person. Interesting.

Okay follow me for an example of how silly this shift seems...

So, if I am a student, nay, a disciple, of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., then how am I going to conduct my life if he charges me to make disciples or to do greater things than he was able to do in his existence? When I meet people, would I ask them if they want to get to know the King? Would I ask folks to trust him or trust in him?

I don't think I would.

I think to be faithful to Dr. King in making disciples in this Way that he spoke of would be to actually live that way and invite others to live in that way...and not only live in it, but live in and beyond it. If he said that we, his mere disciples, would do greater things after his death, wouldn't we attempt that? To go beyond Dr. King's teachings to even greater realizations of this way?

Would I be so hung up on telling people that it was Dr. King who said these things and no one else? Would I require all students to read his books and say that other books that say similar things are a threat to this way? The others are wrong, I'd tell my friends.

Perhaps Jesus is the answer...but not in some hyper-romatic sort of way. Perhaps a relationship to him is a relationship to our common man, or perhaps to "the least of these" as he said in one of his sermons. Perhaps he is the answer because he led a way for humanity to fully realize itself in the greater story. He awoke us to this Kingdom in our midst...the Human One (as Luke calls him) led the way for a new possiblity for humanity... and still leads the way (as do several others who have passed on).

Would I not tell people that I am a disciple of this Jewish prophet, Jesus? Of course I wouldn't hold that back from them. But would I go there first? I don't think so...not here and now. Jesus' message has echoes thoughout humanity and there are so many other places to start. If I am truly looking to make disciples in this Kingdom Way, I think that in our context (American or Western), it might actually get in the way. Perhaps the very name has become a stumbling block to those who actually are seeking his Way. Could this be?

Now before some of you blast me about how he is a stumbling block or how no one comes to the Father but by him, really think about what I am trying to say here. I am not saying that Jesus was not the Ultimate One, but perhaps his initiative was not to introduce himself to others, but instead to show how to truly be as creation ought to be.


Josh said...

i was just finishing up reading your recent post when my comment "ding" when off. nice post btw.

can't make it to minn. we're still adjusting to the new finances of not having a full time job. i'm sure it'll be superb though.

what's papafest about? i don't run in many design circles anymore.

Christian said...

I suppose it might be where you finish. Starting with doubt and deconstruction is a good thing, pointing out the common grace that exsist among all God's creation is a good thing but i was wondering, while reading your post, about those teachers at the end who say to Jesus we followed "your way" and we did it "in your name"....His answer seems to cut me evry time..."I never knew you"

I like empahsizing like you "the way" that Jesus showed us but cannot seem to neglect this very clear idea that "knowing Him" might intimate.

I like where you start and I sense you are seeking how to live this out. Where you finish..That He is the "only answer"...may certainly be a stumbling block to many no matter where you start.

JDL said...

My concern is that you won't have true transformation just by getting people to follow Jesus' teachings. It's about transformation and I don't believe true transformation is going to come through adherance to teaching. I believe that is where the relationship with Jesus comes in. He begins to transform hearts. Without the heart change the teachings won't really take hold - as a matter of fact, they'll proabably be considered foolishness. Jesus did say that without him "we can do nothing." I also believe to many his name is a stumbling block. I will submit - it was a stumbling block in the days of the Apostles. People are going to be offended by him. Our issue is to make sure if people are offended - it's not because we poorly represent him.

Ryan Lee Sharp said...

Thanks for the thoughts thus far.

I will press a little harder that Jesus was actually turning away to those who would be doing things "in his name", not those who were "not doing things in his name"... and remember that he also rebukes the disciples for attempting to "outgroup" a certain group of people who were doing good, but were not "in the fold"... if you will.

I would also push that I don't know if where you end ought to be having a "personal relationship with Jesus" in the way we think of it. Certainly the only way we can do good is by the Spirit of goodness, which is available to all (and remember that a kingdom would not work against itself, whether evil or good) and is universal. (Was that redundant?)

Jesus continually pointed away from himself to the Ultimate... I think you'd find that the Buddha did the same. In fact, most people that are truly teaching of something greater point not to themselves, but to God, the Ultimate, whatever.

Jesus always pointed to the Father. Some might say that the worship of Jesus is idolatry.

While I would agree that the end ought to be proper alignment with Creator and creation, I still don't think the name thing is important. After all, what's in a name? And who's to say that your Jesus looks like my Jesus. Is it important that we have a common Jesus? A common God?

But I'm obviously ignoring (or at least dismissing) some of Paul's writings. And I understand that will be a problem to a great many of you.

I, however, do not hold an "inerrant view of Scripture" and do not think that Paul is on par with Jesus in his teachings. This, however, is for another entry at some later date perhaps. I just want you to know that I acknowledge that there are statements seemingly contrary to what I am proposing.

Okay, that's simply my thoughts for now. Carry on the midrash...

Ryan Lee Sharp said...

Just one more thing...

I want to make it clear that I am not trying to diminish Jesus... I am simply saying that if we really want to be faithful to what he called his disciples to, perhaps it is not some relationship to a God that is merely "other".

nicholasfiedler said...

An inspiring post. I hope will let it sit with me. I think you are right in so much here.

But the general premise that he, the divine God, is more interested in a way of life than a correct systematic belief structure with a prayer that perfectly articulates our submission to a name - is a good premise. I agree here.

Michael said...

"But somewhere along the way (and perhaps quite recently) there has been a shift away from the man's teachings and just to him as a person. Interesting."

sounds like you are saying jesus was just this guy who lived well, and got killed for it, like dr. king. or that we should treat him like that.

don't agree -- if that is what you are saying.

it is the person of jesus that makes his teachings interesting to me. if it's just the stories that are supposed to stand on their own and somehow provide guidance for my life, they aren't that great.

Danae said...

i think i got what you are saying in your post and i agree. it is difficult for me to find the real Jesus when I see Him in so many different ways. Isn't He just one? Why is it so difficult to see the real raw Jesus? Christians can be so diverse in their understanding of God. I'm a horrible articulator, so I won't get all in depth..but i liked this post. and if i hear you correctly, i agree.

i liked this, "Perhaps a relationship to him is a relationship to our common man, or perhaps to "the least of these" as he said in one of his sermons."

i've been so confused over polemic issues, i just tend to wanna throw them away andhope that God doesn't mind...that He concerned more for our relationships and burden-sharing than for "systematic theology". i know there is probably a place for everything, im really not very knowledgable..but something inside me really wants to see Jesus, and I seem to see Him in people and creation the best. perhaps im way off here..but i thought i'd support your post.

Ryan Lee Sharp said...

I don't mean that a set of propositional truths stated by this man is what we should reduce Jesus to. Of course the greatest thing about his teaching is that he actually lived it...and offers us to live in that Way as well.

My point isn't to divorce Jesus, the person, from his teachings. My point is that his point wasn't to get people to "introduce him" to other people. It was to help awaken people to this new way of being human.

Certainly he "lived well", but obviously defined in a very different way than is commonly held...much like Dr. King or Gandhi.

Christian said...

I think you might not only be in conflict with Paul but also Jesus in John 3 "Born again", something the new testament repeats ecspecially Peter.

By the way, if you do not suscribe to innerancy ( i am suppossing you mean it's less than accurate, not more) then how do you trust any sense of what you think you "know" about Jesus "way".

The problem with deconstruction in this era is that you eventually have to decontrust yourself. Jesus, who deconstructed religion didn't have to because not only was he pointing to the Father but claimgint to be equl with the father and therefore had a subjective absolute truth as the foundation of his deconstruction.

As this generation deconstructs the major problem is that at its foundation is faith in doubt and decontruction and ends nowhere.

In the end it seems to me that you will have to decontrcuct your own system here that ironically sounds very narrow as to what it means to follow Jesus. I fear that if all of us as recovering fundamentalist buy fully in postmodern decontruction of all things we will accept not the Gospel of Jesus at all and will find out the hard way that some things are foundationally true and can be known

Kirsty said...

Hey Ryan

I'll actually be gone by July, but the funny thing is i'm in Minnesota right now, jsut flew into Minneapolis today! Im visiting a friend from my DTS, so ill be in the Minneapolis area until Friday, have you got any shows or anything planned for the next few nights? let me know and maybe I can come:)

Its weird how small this world is sometimes!


nir said...

I think that most of the people who are put off by the mention of Jesus have 1) come across someone who was NOT a good representative of Christ (the typical ugly pushy fake "christian") or 2) were turned off by things that the people in category 1 have done and know nothing about Jesus or 3) are afraid of changing their lives for some reason.

I would say the majority of people I've met fall into categories 1 and 2. The "church" has put huge stone walls in the way of people following Jesus, not just stumbling blocks. If people really knew Jesus they would have to honestly make the choice of following him or going to category 3, but they can't get past the people who claim to follow him.

Ryan Lee Sharp said...

Again, I appreciate the thoughts.

I do not necessarily see this whole deconstruction process being inherently blind or having its faith purely in doubt... at least no more than other deconstructions that have gone on in the past.

My deconstruction continues and continues to be guided in part by deconstructing my own self. It came from my own time "on the inside" of the whole Christian thing. It was a realization that I do see everything through some form of lens.

Certainly we are never going to see the Pure Universe because we all use some kind of lens to see the world. I am merely saying that I think the main lens used for the last while is horribly warped and I think that we must look deeper, farther, and not just pull from "spiritual" sources.

If we believe in a Universal God (not some tribal god), and that this Jesus was some sort of messenger of this God, than it would seem that this is not some cultural-religious movement, but a human movement.

So, it's time to widen our pool of knowledge and turn over every stone as we have energy for it...and not just as individuals, but as communities and families.

Christian, you might be right that there are just some foundational truths...but that sounds like the hegemonic arguments waged on "doubters" that I've heard for so long. I think I'll pass on that for now. Perhaps some day I'll come back to it, but for now, I'm not so sure that it's a given. Thanks for your thoughts though. Do we know each other?

SB said...

Thanks for the thought-provocation, Ryan. Sometimes questions are more helpful than answers in forming/transforming our souls (personally and communally). This post and its ensuing comments are opening up good questions.

Lora said...

According to your tract, Jesus takes ALL the fun out of JEOPARDY!---either that or he makes it extremely easy: any question will do, because JESUS IS THE ANSWER. (We better not introduce him to Alex Trebek.)

Kirsty said...


Thought i'd share some thoughts. I love a lot of what you are saying on here, I think there are questiosn that need to be asked and struggled with but, correct me if i'm wrong, and this is a general statement which may seem unfair, but i've been noticing with your blog and a lot of blogs and even my own ideas that what seems to be happening is we talk a lot about fundamentalist christians, the far rights, we constantly see the way they live and act as wrong, so we almost try to go to the other side because none of us wants to be these judgemental, 'cheesy', fake people. Somewhere in the middle of this I think we are missing something, that yes there are always gonna be the people who don't represent Jesus well, who don't truly follow ,Him but there are a large group of people who do follow him, and they don't all support Bush, have cheesy bumper stickers or condemn homosexuals and treat them like dirt. There are people out there who still believe Jesus to be God,and who actually live like he does, who follow his teachings as you've been sharing. Look at Mother Teresa, she truly lived out these teachings more than a lot of us but she still believed Jesus was the way to God, this is where she found her strength to do what she did. And I know from reading some of her writings that where she found this passion for people, where she found the strength to care for the poor and dying was from her relationship to God.

Anyway what i'm getting at is I think it is possible to have this intimate relationship with God, but I don't think thats where it ends, I think there's also this community relationship which can be beautiful when people get real with each other. I'm only spekaing from my own limited experience, I don't really us big words or know a lot of 'theology' but what i've seen the last few months has opened my eyes to so much. Living with a group of 10 people day in day out for 5 months has shown me so much, people were real, they shared real struggles and truly showed me how to follow Jesus' teachings in this time. I found people who believe Jesus was God, believe He was the way to the father and also lived his teachings, yeah we screw up along the way, and sometimes we didn't always see eye to eye but something bound us together and helped us to share this with people we'd meet in Cairo or Rome or San Francisco. I'm not saying YWAM is perfect, we came form all different backgrounds, but somehow we came together as a group and things happened in all of our lives. I know i'll never be the same because I was learning more and more what it is to follow Jesus, to love the unlovables, the homeless, the prostitutes etc. one thing I noticed when I started my journey was that I found it hard to have any love for these homeless people and I realized it was only God who could even give me that love for them.

Anyway sorry to ramble here. I just feel like maybe we're missing something here, maybe Jesus saying he was the way to the father and no-one come but by him wasn't some rash statement saying follow me, become a generic robot and treat people of other faiths like crap, maybe he was saying yes I am the way to the father and I want you to come to me because thats where you will find life, thats where you will become the better person you want to be. I know its messy and sometimes your life can get worse but for me I just ultimately have found that this is the best way to be living my life. I still have SO many questions but I still feel like I have a security that I can know some things about God and how he works.

I dunno this wasn't exactly some deep revelation but lately i've been a little frustrated with whats going on. I love a lot of the 'emerging' thoughts going around these days but at the same time I can't help but feel its trying too hard to be unlike the fundamentalism that its merely creating another side group and in the end while a lot of the ideas are awesome its almost as bad as being like these far right people who go around screaming hell, fire and brimstone. I know i'm part of this problem too.