Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Why We Love Jesus Christ

In response to the "Why I love Jesus" meme.

Christ and Staff, by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1882)

It took me a long time to get around to this, but I’m finally getting caught up with a tag I received from Crystal called “Five Reasons Why I Love Jesus”. In addition to Crystal’s fine responses, I’ve seen other very good, succinct ones from Talmida and The Ironic Catholic.

As you can see from the title of the post, I’ve taken the liberty of renaming the meme “Why We Love Jesus Christ”. I use “we”, because in addition to the importance of having a relationship with “my personal Lord and Savior”, I think it’s important to remember that as Christians we are meant to have a communitarian ethos, not an individualistic one. In the best of both the large “C” Catholic tradition and the small “c” catholic (universal) tradition, we are called to recognize that we are a community of gifts and needs, one Body in Christ, with Jesus at the head. We should all work harder towards that unity, whether we are Catholics, Protestants, or Orthodox alike… I use “Jesus Christ” rather than “Jesus”, because Jesus would not be especially relevant to us if he was not the Messiah, the “Anointed One”.

The Good News:

He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, "Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."
-- Luke 4: 16-21

My favorite New Testament verse:

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."
-- Matthew 11: 28-30

We love Jesus Christ (or, IMHO, should love him) for:

1) Saving us through his life, cross, and resurrection. Whether your theory of atonement is the Satisfaction model, or Recapitulation, Ransom, Substitutionary, Moral Influence, Christus Victor, or any other type, the life, death, and resurrection of Christ was salvific for us. Through the Incarnation, He deigned to become one of us and to share in our joys, sorrows, laughter, tears, satisfactions, disappointments, friendships and betrayals, even onto death. All of this in part of God’s plan to reconcile humanity to himself, gather and sum up all things in himself, and allow us to be inherited sons and daughters who will be with Him forever.

2) Being there for us and for answering our prayers. I can think of many circumstances and events in my own life when I was at my wit’s end and at the limit of my own abilities and couldn’t have endured or overcome without Jesus answering my prayers. As a family, He has been good to us and has answered our prayers, even if trite to say, he has not always answered them in a way that we would have wanted or expected. Nevertheless, we haven’t been given a stone when we’ve asked for bread, or a snake when we’ve asked for fish.

3) His program of radical justice. As said so well on the other blogs, Jesus was the friend and champion of the outcast, the weak, the despised, the persecuted, the meek, the poor, the stranger, the outsider, and the shunned. In proclaiming the “Kingdom of God”, or more accurately, the “Reign of God”, He reminded those who would hear of what was so loudly proclaimed by the prophets in the Old Testament - that the earth belonged to the Divinity, and that to follow Him we must “defend the lowly and fatherless; render justice to the afflicted and needy, rescue the lowly and poor; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." (Psalm 82). A kingdom where the last shall be first and the first shall be last. While stating that “Man does not live by bread alone”, neither did he neglect His people’s material needs while feeding their spirits. He healed illnesses and afflictions, drove out spirits, and fed the hungry, thereby rejecting by his own actions and example the Hellenistic dualism between spirit and flesh that denigrates the flesh and makes earthly justice unimportant. When the crowds came to hear him preach, he made sure they were fed. When he raised up the little girl from the dead, he commanded “Give her something to eat.” By the same token, recognizing the longings of the human heart and our need for tangible things, he gave us the gift of the Eucharist to give us to eat of himself and to be with us always as we hold to one community in Him.

4) Speaking truth to power and all of the pretensions that power carries with it. In this He turned all conventional wisdom on its head. Completely non-plussed by wealth, titles, status and power, Jesus rejected all violence and the arrogance that goes with the wielding of power that crushes people underneath it. He taught what a true leader is –one who lives to serve rather than to be served.

5) Proclaiming the “Reign of God” in parables. Many people came to Jesus prodding Him, testing Him, looking for contracts, formulas, facile answers. “What is the least I have to do?” Rather than speaking in those legalistic terms, Jesus spoke in parable and story for those who were able to discern and understand. Speaking to our hearts directly in story, and stepping right through all kinds of purity boundaries and barriers, Jesus made it clear that internal purity was more important than external purity, and that what was in the heart, like love, mercy, and forgiveness, mattered more than the letter of the law.

"Simon, I have something to say to you." "Tell me, teacher," he said. "Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days' wages and the other owed fifty. Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?" Simon said in reply, "The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven." He said to him, "You have judged rightly." Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." He said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."
-- Luke 7: 40-48

Though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.

Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
-- 2 Phil 6-11


crystal said...

Thanks for doing this. Your answers are really good - much more theorough than mine. The answering prayers part is really important to me, though I didn't mention it in my version. I like that expression, speaking truth to power ... I've even heard it on The West Wing :-)

Jeff said...


I thought your reasons were great. I don't know if mine were more thorough. I'm just a blowhard, that's all. I just have a hard time putting up short posts, which is why I have trouble getting around to posting them sometimes.

I like that expression, speaking truth to power ... I've even heard it on The West Wing :-)

The "Left Wing"? ;-) Speaking truth to power... Is that a cliche? At least I did't say:

"Jesus gives people a sense of empowerment..." :-D

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,

I really enjoyed that, thanks for sharing. B