Saturday, May 20, 2017

Was Jesus nothing more than just a good example?
by Bill Jones, TBC executive director

Earlier this week, Baptist News Global published a column by CHUCK QUEEN, entitled, "Jesus is the gate. But are there others?"

I always find Chuck Queen's columns thought-provoking and enlightening, and this one was no different in that regard. Yet I also felt there was something lacking.

For example, he proclaims that "there is nothing magical about the name of Jesus, or about his words, deeds, death and resurrection." No, there is nothing "magical," but there IS something uniquely powerful and profound about that name. Queen tosses the "name" of Jesus out of his way, in deference to ". . . the virtues he embodied, the values he incarnated, the life he lived full of grace and truth . . . what his life, teachings, works, death and resurrection represents."

But what exactly IS the "name" of Jesus? Emmanuel, the scriptures tell us, meaning "God with us." This is not just another good man, a good example. He is God come to live among us. Jesus didn't just come to give us a good example of a "godly" life; He came so that we might know the Father in the intimate way in which He did. Bringing us into relationship with the Father was the purpose, as well, of His death and resurrection. Those were profoundly purposeful events.

There is much to like, for me anyway, about Queen's column. Personally, I believe that God's grace is much greater than ours. I don't think any of us is qualified to say who's "in" and who's "out" - that's all up to God. Do I believe that long-held orthodox church teachings have interpreted scripture much too narrowly? Most definitely. Can people who have never accepted Christ as God's son be in relationship with God nevertheless? That's God's call, not mine.

I agree with Queen's contention that "Too many Christians have turned their belief system into an idol by which they seek to manage and control God by keeping God in a box." Yet it seems to me that Queen then turns around and does the very same - when he talks of God as love, to the neglect of any other qualities, such as holiness, justice, and righteousness. Has he not confined God within a box of his own making?

What bothers me most is that Queen neglects - in this column, anyway - to mention either relationship with God or dependence on God. I agree with him that how we treat people, especially those in need and those who have been marginalized by others, is critical. I guess you could say I'm a Matthew 25 (verses 31-46) Christian. That's where Christ makes it very clear just what He expects of His followers.

However, if we stop there, we neglect what seems, to me, to be the most important part of Christ's life: His relationship with the Father. Christ's love can never be separated from that relationship. He spent hour upon hour in prayer. His love - and every area of His life - flowed from His relationship with the Father.

That may well be the most important example Christ set for us. Our love - as with our holiness, our justice, and our righteousness - is to flow from our relationship with the Father. Without that relationship, our love will be a profoundly poor reflection of Christ's love. Christ was dependent on the Father working through Him, and so are we.