We are all familiar with the words of Mark 8: 27, and we know the answer that Peter Simon gave, “You are the Christ.”
Yet, if we talk to people of faith, surely we will get many varied pictures of exactly who this Christ is.
To some he is the suffering atonement that gains our place in heaven.
To others he is the radical street politician who turns the world and its assumptions on its ear and presents us with a new way to see each other.
To some he is brother, best friend, constant companion, always available in our times of need to comfort us, reminding us of God’s eternal love.
He is no doubt all these things, and much more. Our answer to the question though dictates I would argue much about ourselves and what we are prepared to DO in His name.
I have been digesting something I read last week, well, ever since I read it. It went something like this:
“Do you really think that God will think better of those who are less welcoming than those who are too welcoming?”
In other words, some tell us we are too tolerant of things and people they consider acting or being in ways that they define as not Godly. So they reject them or their ideas. Not obviously of course; they use the Christian safety valve–“I hate the sin, NOT the sinner!”, they smartly remark. But of course, it looks the same, feels the same, and results in the same–rejection.
And you can’t say that we weren’t warned. When Peter finds Jesus’ teaching about suffering unacceptable to happen to God’s Son, Jesus explains:
” You are thinking not as God thinks, but as human beings think!”
So we know that God doesn’t think as we do. There are many examples of this of course through out the scriptures where God acts in ways that confound us and are so very different that what we would expect. Yet somehow, many of us seem to think that somehow we have “cracked the code” as it were. We feel competent to speak for God on issues not mentioned in the bible at all, or if they are, in ways that are so different to the situation of today as to be dangerous to apply.
Since we are woefully inadequate in much of our understanding of the culture of those times, we should be dubious in applying rules and “laws” designed to deal with very specific problems of the day. This has been proven again and again as it relates to Paul’s letters which are unarguably often addressed to A faith community, and one that is suffering specific problems, not all of which we are necessarily aware of. Paul’s statements must be taken with the proverbial “grain of salt” when they relate to human-created social relationships. After all, Paul seemed rather certain that most of his flock would live to see the returned Christ. What else might he have been in error about?
In any case, we seem to be on solid firm ground when we adhere to the actual teachings of Christ, and they the teachings, universally point that God thinks about love first and foremost. What grows love, what spreads love, what enhances and purifies love? When we are unsure about how to respond to some new or even old social arrangement or thinking, we should place it up against the standard of love.
Does it further it or deny it? Does it bring all peoples in closer communion or divide us?
Would it be a good thing for God to spread his love through only one vehicle, or would it be helpful to reach out to disparate peoples in disparate lands and cultures and use those things that were normative to their environment to grow his loving human family?
Who are you? Are you a follower of love?
- Mark 8:27-38 “Who Do You Say that I Am” JUMC 20120916 (mysundaysermons.com)
- The Paradox of Discipleship: The 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (thesacredpage.com)
- Living by Our Identity: Homily for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year (b) Rev. Fr. Bonnie Anusiem (frbonnie.wordpress.com)