February 11, 2018
This year on Wednesday, February 14, we celebrate not only Valentine’s Day but the beginning of Lent. Perhaps this year it is a convenient calendar coincidence. There can be no Christianity without love.
Looking at Jesus in the Gospels, it is quite clear that love is much more than having nice feelings. Love is an action word. It builds relationships. It promotes values and principles that are lived realities. Love means acceptance, belonging, trust, forgiveness, honesty, openness, generosity, and faithfulness. This is the way of Jesus. The person, who puts her or his faith in Jesus, trusts that Jesus taught the right way to live and accepts Jesus as one’s master and spiritual guide. The Way of Jesus. And so, we read in the Gospel According to John: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
Over time, however, faith in Jesus, for many Christians and institutional Christian leaders, became less a way of life and much more a doctrinal statement to be accepted and taught. Accepting the word became more important than living the word. It became paramount to believe, for instance, that Jesus was divine, regardless how one lived one’s life. We see, for instance, throughout the history of medieval Europe that adulterers, thieves, and liars accepted the divinity of Christ and went about their ways. Some were even popes and great political leaders. People who questioned or challenged church teaching, however — regardless how they lived their lives — were denounced, tortured, and even burned at the stake.
Clearly the historical Jesus was not egotistical. He did not focus on himself. He was not ego-centered but other-centered. Through his lived spiritual values of courage, cooperation, fairness, forgiveness, and faithfulness, Jesus revealed divinity as well as authentic humanity.
People who are ego-centered become slaves to habitual behaviors that become addictions: selfishness, deceitfulness, callousness, and arrogance. Those addictive habits can provide momentary satisfaction, and even applauded “greatness;” but eventually they diminish life and destroy it.
Yes, the Gospels make it very clear that Jesus was not focused on himself. And yes, Jesus was abused, tortured, and murdered on a cross; but God brought him to the fullness of life “on the third day.”
And so, here we are today: followers of Jesus. This week end we prepare ourselves for forty days of reflection about the life of Jesus and our lives as his followers. I see Jesus as the great religious changemaker. We are invited to follow and live his example.
This Lent, in Another Voice, I would like to look at what contemporary theology is saying about Jesus and the Four Gospels. I hope I have something of value to share….
– Jack firstname.lastname@example.org